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"Don't Ask" Hits Women Hardest, Ladies Shut Out of Service

"Don't Ask" Hits Women Hardest, Ladies Shut Out of Service


"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," might bring to mind men fighting in foxholes — but the plan is actually rooting out more foxes of the opposite gender. The US Army and Air Force discharged an hugely uneven ratio of women to men in 2007 under the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, which prohibits gay military personnel from disclosing their sexual orientation.

The New York Times reports that even though women only make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the policy in 2007 were female. Up in the air, women account for 20 percent of the Air Force and 49 percent of its discharges.

And the trend is growing — there's a noticeable increase from 2006, when about 35 percent of both the Army’s and the Air Force’s "asked and tolds" were women, according to stats pulled from Pentagon data by a policy advocacy organization. What's making the L-word, "lost female soldiers?" To see what the executive director of the organization had to say about the findings, read more.

Women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, so to find they represent nearly 50 percent of Army and Air Force discharges under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is shocking,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the organization’s executive director. “Women in particular have been caught in the crosshairs of this counterproductive law.

Sarvis's organization, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, didn't perform formal interviews and therefore couldn't offer any specific reasoning for the increase in women being discharged. According to the Times, Pentagon officials couldn't explain why the numbers for women spiked last year either and isn't pushing for any change in policy — the Pentagon holds that it's up to Congress to decide whether the law should be altered or repealed.

The don't-ask policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States because it "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order, and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." While gay and lesbians in the military are prohibited from speaking about any homosexual relationships, interestingly the law states that one must engage in open homosexual acts to commit a punishable offense.

On the recent fifteenth anniversary of the policy's adoption Time put together an exposé noting that while the "move was initially hailed as progress for the rights of gays in the military, today many see it as a liability." Obama recently spoke out telling the gay publication the Advocate that he favors the repeal of the 1993 policy. What's behind this imbalance? Why are more women getting snagged and punished?

Photo courtesy of Showtime

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