Minorities disproportionately discharged for 'don't ask, don't tell' violations

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The military threw out hundreds of service members in 2009 for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, including a disproportionate number of women and minorities and dozens of service members in "mission critical" positions, according to a new analysis of military data.

The Pentagon honorably discharged 428 service members for violating the gay ban in 2009, according to statistics reviewed by the Palm Center, a nonpartisan University of California think tank studying the impact of gays in the military. The figure is down from 619 discharged for violating the policy in 2008.

Women account for 14 percent of Army soldiers but made up 48 percent of the Army's "don't ask" discharges in 2009, the study said. Six percent of the Marine Corp is female, but women accounted for 23 percent of its discharges. Among officers, the Navy discharged only two for violating the policy in 2009, and both were Asian. The Army discharged five officers -- two were African American, one was Asian and two were white, the Palm Center said.

Last year's "don't ask" discharges accounted for about one-tenth of 1 percent of all separations and do not impact the military's readiness, said congressional aides familiar with the matter and not authorized to speak on the record.

The list included eight linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides and one member of the Army's Special Forces, positions considered "mission critical" by the Government Accountability Office. Gay rights groups have long argued that the military's decision to discharge experienced, highly specialized service members costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in military training.

Activists think at least 13,500 service members have been discharged in violation of the policy since it began during the Clinton administration.

The Palm Center reviewed military data provided to lawmakers regarding the number and type of separations by service members. The material excludes names but lists specific reasons for the discharge.

The Pentagon did not return requests for comment about the study Monday.

The Senate is expected to include a repeal of the policy when it passes its version of the annual defense spending bill after the August recess. The House included a repeal in its version earlier this year. A Pentagon study of the impact of repealing the policy is due to President Obama by Dec. 1.

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