Last December, CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a segment on the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policies. Correspondent Lesley Stahl examined whether, in light of the struggle to retain and recruit soldiers to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders were becoming less strict in enforcing the ban on openly gay servicemembers.
During the segment, Stahl spoke with Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, who said he was very open about his homosexuality and even introduced his fellow soldiers to his boyfriend. The Army was forced to open an investigation, but Manzella was eventually cleared to go back to work. He said he was basically told by his commanders, “I don’t care if you’re gay or not.” Watch it:
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) reports that Manzella, “one of the first openly gay active duty service members to speak with the media while serving inside a war zone,” has now been discharged. Manzella’s response:
My sexual orientation certainly didn’t make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad. It shouldn’t be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve.
DADT is not only discriminatory, but also outdated and impractical. SLDN is aware of more than 500 U.S. soldiers who are “out” to their colleagues and continue to serve. A December 2006 survey of servicemembers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan found that 73 percent of those polled were “comfortable with lesbians and gays.”
In recent months, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy that the military was ready to accept gay servicemembers if Congress repeals the ban. Former senator Sam Nunn — a leading proponent of DADT in the 1990s — has even said that it may now be “appropriate” to reconsider the policy.