Two gay Fort Carson soldiers were beaten in a suspected hate crime in Colorado Springs, Colorado over the weekend because of their sexual orientation. One was kicked repeatedly in the head and ribs; the other had to have his jaw wired shut for a facial fracture. But besides recovering from the beating, the soldiers are also struggling with the fact that coming out about the attack could endanger their careers because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is still in effect.
“John” and “Ted” now face concerns about how their very visible injuries will impact their ability to abide by the policy. John explained that homosexuality “is definitely frowned upon” in his combat unit. Even though most of Ted’s peers know he’s gay, he explained, “I don’t need people higher up knowing. I still have to protect myself as far as on the military side.”
At last week’s White House LGBT Pride Reception, President Obama explained that DADT repeal will be certified “in a matter of weeks, not months.” Just-retired Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had similarly suggested certification will take place by late July or early August. Even though Obama signed the repeal legislation last year, the measure contained a certification process for transitioning the troops and an additional 60-day waiting period after repeal is finally lifted. The White House should see incidents like this attack as motivation to not only hasten the repeal process, but to also continue advocating for a nondiscrimination policy that will protect servicemembers should they come out. In the last few weeks, four servicemembers have been discharged under the policy, but those aren’t the only consequences of DADT. Soldiers like John and Ted are recovering from serious injuries because their gay identities made them targets, and those very injuries could lead to them losing their military careers or facing further harassment in their units.