Sunday, August 13, 2006

a little more info...

okay, here's a little followup on the "sensitive subject" post. This article from a gay-targetted publication in the UK points out the following facts regarding the Arabic linguist recently dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

In August 2005, an anonymous individual emailed Copas’s unit, alleging there was an online profile of a unit member identifying them as gay.

Despite clear instructions that investigations into sexual orientation are only to be commenced when a service member’s command has “credible evidence” indicating the service member is gay, Copas’s command nonetheless asked him about his sexual orientation and went on to launch a full investigation into allegations about him.

The command-appointed investigating officer interviewing Copas asked such questions as, “Do you work off duty with the local community theatre?” and “Do you know or are you aware of anyone who believes you are a homosexual?”

He also recommended conducting “an inquiry…into the possibility of further homosexual conduct by member(s) of the (unit).”

Despite never learning who made the original allegations against him, Sergeant Copas was dismissed from the Army in January.

So, it's nothing really new, just a little more information on the rules regarding investigation of allegedly gay service members. I didn't know from CNN that the original accusation was merely that one of the members of the unit might have a profile up online that showed he was gay. I know that according to DADT they're not allowed to be "out" but unless the profile said something like "Hi, my name's Sargeant Joe and I'm a member of the 82nd Airborne, and I'm gay," the guy hasn't really outed himself. After all, in order to know that the guy had a gay profile, you had to be looking for gay profiles. That said, if he really outed himself under his full name and photo on the internet, I have little sympathy for him regarding his dismissal. Small as the odds are that he'd be caught by his command chain, he's not supposed to out himself at all, anywhere. Here's the thought from this article that really pegged me:
The SLDN* labelled the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell as (sic) “ineffective and convenient, weapon of vengeance in our armed forces.”

Sharra Greer, director for law and policy said: “Anyone with an axe to grind, a former partner or roommate, or an angry relative, for example, can end an otherwise promising career simply by employing rumour and hearsay. "

*SLDN - Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

And what Ms. Greer has said is what really bothers me most about the policy, on a personal level. As an American, desirous of safety, and protective of my civil liberties, I am bothered by the fact that an Arabic linguist with a clean record of service to the military was dismissed while we're supposedly fighting a "War On Terror". The fact that he was dismissed as the result of an anonymous tip by someone with an axe to grind only makes it worse. The liberal in me is incensed that 200-odd years after psychologists developed the terminology to discuss homosexuality, an orientation that insofar as we know dates back as far as heterosexuality, our society is still so freaked out by what we don't understand that we can't tolerate its presence in our midst.


Anonymous said...

As outraged as I am about the DADT policy of the military, I think that maybe we should all take a step back and realize that this could really happen to almost any of us. In most of this country, gay folks are not legally protected against discrimination. While many individual communities and a few progressive states have corrected this oversight, nationally, there is no such law. Perhaps, it would better serve the gay community (such as it is) to concentrate on this step towards equality instead of skipping ahead to demand marriage rights. In the meantime, I absolutely agree with you about the awfulness of a policy which would leave this group of people completely open to vicious, vengeful, anonymous and even unsubstantiated attacks. If we are forced to deal with this joke of a policy, it definitely needs tweaking. Thoughts? Also, a question: would a linguist really be "in the line of fire" as you were discussing in your earlier post on this subject?

Thalassa said...

Good point regarding employment protection. Most people could lose their jobs for being gay without any other cause. However, most employers don't have a policy prohibiting their employees from being gay so the risk is lower for civilians. Unless you go to work for "The Cracker Barrel" restaurant or Interstate Batteries or a sports team (for guys, lesbians in sport seem to be ok) or a church that's not gay-affirming, you're probably alright. Most employers, while they could fire you if they find out you're gay, don't do it. And if they would, you probably know it and live your life in a closeted way that doesn't harm your job prospects. Most importantly, few civilian employers would launch an investigation into the orientation of an employee over an anonymous and threatening e-mail "tip". So, while I agree that your point is a good one and some civilians are in the same danger of job loss over their orientation, I don't think the degree of danger is comparable. One final bit: if one is dismissed under DADT, one is given a dishonorable discharge, which is like having a felony conviction on one's arrest record. Simply being dismissed from a civilian job by a homophobic or righteously intolerant boss doesn't connote the same "dishonor" at all. So, tweaks to the DADT policy should include protection from vengeful tip-offs as well as protection from a "dishonorable" discharge. Agreed there?

If people were being fired (or discriminated against in employment practices) with any frequency for being gay, I believe there would be a bigger legal fight over it. I agree, it should be encoded in law nationally that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification is illegal. I know that in many venues, the legislation of equal rights is still being pressed. For some reason, the marriage aspect has gotten a lot more press lately, but that's not because the other fronts are silent. Ironically, marriage 'rights' are another aspect of the same "equal protection and application of law" argument that would be used to fight employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. I don't see those as separate fights, for that reason. Equal application of the laws and protection thereunder for all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification would include employment equality, housing equality, and marriage equality.

I should note here that I think "marriage" and its copious baggage of religious associations should be left in the hands of churches. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business and license domestic partnerships for straight and gay couples, so they can regulate all the tax and insurance and inheritance laws that are built around that legal partnership created when people marry. Let churches decide to whom they are willing to extend "holy matrimony" and get the government out of it.

A linguist would be "in the line of fire" if he was serving as a translator for a unit that served on the front lines. If he were an intelligence analyst, he'd probably sit at a desk translating intercepted communications. So, his proximity to the front would depend on his assignment.

Thanks for commenting! I love 'talking' this stuff out with people. Please do stop in again!