Political Animal


June 03, 2011 2:45 PM About that DADT discharge…

By Steve Benen

It was discouraging to learn overnight about an airman being discharged from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After all, DADT repeal is well underway, and it seemed unreasonable that the Obama administration would throw qualified service-members out of the military for being gay so close to the policy’s official end. The news sparked another round of criticism from the gay-rights community of the White House.

The truth, however, is a little more complicated.

Air Force officials confirmed that an unidentified airman was dismissed under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law earlier this year, the first such firing since defense officials effectively put a moratorium on the law in October.

However, service officials emphasized the move came at the request of the airman, who requested to be released from military service despite the imminent repeal of the law banning openly gay troops.

“In this instance, the airman first class made a statement that he was a homosexual,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper said Friday. “After making the statement but prior to the commander initiating separation action, the airman wrote the secretary of the Air Force asking to be separated.

“After the separation action was initiated, the individual was informed of the current status of the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and he reaffirmed to the [Air Force secretary] that he desired his separation action be expeditiously processed.”

By all appearances, this airman, for whatever reason, simply wanted out of the military. He was offered a chance to keep serving, and asked to be removed anyway. Indeed, since October, this one individual is literally the only person to have been dismissed from the military because of sexual orientation.

Clearly, the sooner the DADT policy is brought to an official end, the better. But to characterize this incident as a betrayal from the administration appears to be an unfair criticism.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • K in VA on June 03, 2011 2:54 PM:

    I'm deeply troubled by all the Obama bashers in gay world who ran with this story before they know all the facts, assuming that, whatever happened, Obama had once again betrayed equality.

    It's true Obama isn't always the "fierce advocate" he promised he'd be. But he's not the enemy either -- what do you want, Obama critics, a Republican in the White House in 2013?

  • zandru on June 03, 2011 2:59 PM:

    "But to characterize this incident as a betrayal from the administration appears to be an unfair criticism."

    Apparently, the unfair criticism has already begun... Watch for the rabidly-antigay members of the reactionary right to be the harshest critics.

  • Alli on June 03, 2011 3:53 PM:

    @K in VA: many of us have been deeply troubled by this type of reaction for a very long time. It happens constantly. Its like the boy that cried wolf and at some point no one will listen.

    Happily I no longer visit sites that engage in this destructive behavior.

  • Doctor Biobrain on June 03, 2011 5:45 PM:

    Unfortunately, I'm sure this story has already been etched into the Wall of Shame many on the left have for Obama, in which every offense, both real and imagined, is the most important thing in the world; and any good deeds are ignored or revised into offenses.

    They might not know exactly why they hate Obama, but they know he deserves it.

  • meady on June 06, 2011 3:00 PM:

    As a former member of the armed forces, there was a not oft mentioned reason to get rid of don't ask don't tell. It was a way of getting out of one's service commitment before fullfilling it, with a discharge that was not dishonorable. Had more to do with wanting out of the service than sexual orientation. More than one person has been discharged under this policy that were not "gay". No it was not rampant nor did they need to develop a policy to prove you were gay so to speak o other such foolishness, but it did exist and it is now one less tool in someones tool box to get out of a military commitment. Honestly (no not blaming the victim here), this airman's actions has a distinct odor about it.