Policy forces lesbian and gay servicemembers to keep secrets, and keeping secrets is what makes them vulnerable, puts them at risk

David E. Cozad
David E. Cozad

Gays and lesbians serving in the United States military are a threat to national security. But only if they’re subject to the indignity of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

I served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the early to mid-1970s. Having had this experience, I can tell you that I’d be very concerned if a Marine under my command felt the need to conceal a major aspect of their life from the rest.

Keeping one secret leads to the need to keep others, and that is a security problem no officer wants to face.

The British learned a hard lesson in this area half a century ago, when gay members of the civil service were blackmailed by Soviet agents. More recently, one of our own soldiers, apparently facing discrimination over his sexuality among other issues, chose to release a quarter-million State Department documents to Wikileaks.

Part of the fallout from this includes the outing of hundreds of Afghans who’ve rendered assistance to our efforts there. These men are as good as dead and an already tough environment will be even more dangerous for our people.

While this is the most dramatic event in this area, the constant grind of losing good people is an equally serious problem. We spend $300 million annually to replace those we discharge due to DADT, and there are other costs our troops should not be made to bear.

The straight lieutenant in charge of a convoy in Afghanistan didn’t even know the ambush his unit faced could have been avoided if we’d not discharged a gay linguist the previous month. He’ll write the letter to the mother of the soldier who died in that ambush, unaware that the lesbian nurse discharged the week before had the skills to save the man, a tuition that had been paid not with dollars, but with the blood of those she’d cared for previously.

Our nation faces many, many complex problems. Gay troops are not one of them.

Gay men have quietly served our nation since that first shot at the Old North Bridge in Concord, and it’s time we treat the LGBT men and women in our armed forces with the same respect we accord everyone else — both when they are in uniform, and after their honorable discharge at the end of their service.

David E. Cozad is the Democratic candidate for the District 6 seat in Congress. He is challenging incumbent Republican Joe Barton.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.