Testing the Policy on Gays

Jacob Reitan, left, and Haven Herrin, who are openly gay, outside the recruiting office of the Minnesota Army National Guard in Roseville after they tried to enlist.
Jacob Reitan, left, and Haven Herrin, who are openly gay, outside the recruiting office of the Minnesota Army National Guard in Roseville after they tried to enlist. (By Jim Mone -- Associated Press)

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Jacob Reitan says he wants to join the military and serve his country. He also wants to make a political point about the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay personnel.

Last month, he and two friends tried to join the Minnesota National Guard. They showed up at a recruiting office in the Minneapolis suburb of Roseville and applied, expecting to be rejected because of their sexual orientation.

"We're capable, smart young people, simply not able to serve because we're gay or lesbian," said Reitan, 24, an honors graduate from Northwestern University who is to attend Harvard Divinity School in the fall. "I have a lot to offer in terms of my mental and physical abilities, which is what a soldier was traditionally judged on."

As it happened, college student Ezekiel Montgomery was rejected outright, but the applications of Reitan and Haven Herrin, a 24-year-old lesbian, were put on hold. They have previous arrests during Equality Rides, a series of peaceful protests and sit-ins organized by Reitan at conservative colleges and military academies.

But rejection is expected. The Defense Department believes the morale and competence of a military unit are compromised when openly gay personnel are included. Gay sexual orientation is considered acceptable if it remains private.

"I hope the American people," Herrin said, "would not encourage me to lie about who I am."

-- Peter Slevin


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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