Following yesterday’s release of a Pentagon report on gay and lesbian service members in the military, members of the Harvard College Democrats and Harvard College Queer Students and Allies gathered to discuss the possible impact of the report on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and Harvard’s current ban on the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
According to the Pentagon’s report, 70 percent of the 115,000 members of the military and 44,000 spouses who responded to the survey believed that the repeal of DADT would have no effect or a positive effect on military units. A November CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 75 percent of the American population as a whole felt similarly.
The report did not include specific recommendations, but did state that the repeal of DADT would be unlikely to jeopardize military effectiveness.
“For queer people who can’t serve openly, it’s not just an inconvenience but a denial of who they are,” said QSA Co-Chair Marco Chan ’11 in reference to DADT.
Dems Treasurer Victoria E. Wenger ’14 said that in addition to marginalizing LGBT members of the military, DADT reflects poorly on the U.S. government.
“DADT is federally sanctioned lying,” said Wenger, adding that the country with the largest and most powerful military in the world should not force gay and lesbian members to lie about their lifestyles and face discharge if they tell the truth.
“The fact that this aspect of the issue is not being discussed scares me as a Democrat and an American as much as the fact that we’re condemning people’s lifestyles and civil rights,” Wenger said.
Attendees agreed that DADT should be repealed, but debated about whether a repeal ought to occasion the re-institution of ROTC at Harvard after over 40 years of being absent from campus.
“Harvard allows recruiting from the State Department and other organizations that do a lot of harm, and that double standard penalizes a lot of people who choose to serve their country through the military,” said Jonathan M. Padilla ’12. “We’re punishing people who are going to put their lives in harm’s way to protect people like us sitting here having this discussion.”
Dems Membership Director James P. Biblarz ’14 said that the U.S. military exhibits significant discrimination beyond that against gay and lesbian service members and that it also lags behind most other Western militaries in integrating female service members.
“Where do we draw the line in supporting ROTC in terms of how the military treats certain groups that are important to Democrats?” Biblarz said, noting that although women may serve in the military and are officially allowed to fill most posts, it is rare that they rise to top leadership positions.
Dems Campaigns Director Katie R. Zavadski ’13 added that students could do more to combat the military’s discrimination from within its ranks than through protest.
“The ROTC students we have here at Harvard are probably very enlightened and egalitarian—the people we would want to be going into the military to make it more welcoming for women and queer people,” she said. “If there are students with a more progressive world view in the military, it will probably become a safer place for women and queer service members alike.”
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.