DADT repeal strong beginning, but not good enough, panel says
Posted February 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm in News
Though Congress repealed the âdonât ask, donât tellâ policy, students are still discussing the ramifications and what is left to be done.
The Queer and Ally Student Alliance and School of Social Work Rainbow Alliance Caucus held a panel Thursday discussing the effects and limitations of the repeal of the âdonât ask, donât tellâ policy. About 40 people attended the discussion.
The recently repealed policy prevented gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers from serving openly in the military.
âMany people think that because âdonât ask donât tellâ has been repealed by Congress itâs over, but actually thatâs far from the truth,â said Rainbow Alliance Caucus Treasurer and event organizer Melanie Walker, a graduate student studying social work.
Walker served in the military before coming to USC.
The panel discussed the effects of the repeal and issues that it failed to address.
âMany people in the community think that this is a done deal, and I hate to rain on their parade, but itâs not,â said Tom Carpenter, a former marine captain and current member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Networkâs Board of Directors who was on the panel. âWe ended up with a skeleton of a bill. In order to get it passed, we had to give up a lot.â
The bill that repealed âdonât ask, donât tellâ lacked an anti-discrimination clause, saying a person cannot discriminate against another person based on sexuality. The bill also lacked a clear timeline for implementation of the repeal, Carpenter said.
Students attending the event said they realized how much they didnât know about âdonât ask, donât tellâ once it was discussed.
âLearning that people who were dishonorably discharged didnât have any benefits was really eye-opening, saddening and frustrating,â said Joe Beltran, a graduate student studying education.
Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said the panel of experts helped explain aspects of âdonât ask, donât tellâ that werenât necessarily clear in media coverage.
âItâs important for our students to know that itâs not over yet, and, even though the repeal had been passed, that there are a lot of things that need to be done,â Vigil said.
Kristopher Patrick, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences who is involved with the LGBT resource ,said the panel made the donât ask donât tell repeal more clear.
âI never really understood the full extent of how it affected the soldiers because it didnât directly affect me,â Patrick said.
Carpenter said the guidelines for the militaryâs plans to ensure the repeal will not affect recruitment, retention and readiness, are due today,` but there are no deadlines for when servicemen will be trained to handle servicemen serving openly.
âWe need to keep an eye on them. We need to be vigilant. We need to make sure theyâre doing what they say theyâre doing, or else we arenât going to get certification,â Carpenter said.
Peter Renn, an attorney for LGBT and HIV/AIDS civil rights organization Lambda Legal, said that although the absence of a non-discrimination rule could imply that one isnât necessary, it could become problem.
âThere is explicit non-discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race and natural origin,â Renn said. âThe reality is that there are certain groups of people that need it. Enumeration sends a very clear message.â
Carpenter also said leadership in the Pentagon disagreed with the legal and financial distinctions made between gay and straight spouses. One air force general told him that it was ârepugnantâ to have two classes of citizens in the military to lead.
âInternally, thatâs a good sign,â Carpenter said.
Patrick said that the panel made him more interested in the subject and that he wanted to learn more now.
âI have a lot more questions, but I know a lot more about the topic now,â he said. âThe panel definitely enlightened me.â