- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rep. Patrick J. Murphy is waging a campaign to repeal the Clinton-era policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The Pennsylvania Democrat is a married Irish Catholic father of one, former captain in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division and an Iraq War veteran. He is spearheading the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 1283) that seeks to integrate gays openly in the armed forces.

“This is a national security issue; we have let go three and a half brigades full of troops just because they were gay,” Mr. Murphy said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times. “A lot of people ask how a straight, Irish Catholic father and Blue Dog Democrat could lead this. Let me tell you, I have been wearing an Army uniform since 1993, and I have seen some of the best and brightest soldiers thrown out of the Army for being gay.”

Since 1993, more than 15,000 openly gay soldiers have been discharged from the armed services; more than 265 have been discharged in 2009. According to a study done by the Government Accountability Office in 2005, 757 soldiers discharged held what the army refers to as “critical occupations;” for example, they were voice interceptors, data processing technicians and translators.

“There was no misconduct, no sexual assault. These soldiers were discharged just for being gay,” said Mr. Murphy. He does not see any correlation between being openly gay and serving in the military.

“When I was in Baghdad, the soldiers that I led did not care about race, color, religion or sexual orientation. They cared if the guy in front of them could shoot an M-4 assault rifle, or could kick through a door,” Mr. Murphy said. “At a point in time when our troops are stretched thin, it makes no sense to kick out trained and lethal soldiers.”

Yet, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the Military Times, repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may devastate the armed forces. In that survey, 24 percent or 755,600 active-duty service members said they would either not, or consider not re-enlisting if the policy is repealed. This would surely cripple the military’s strength overseas.

In addition, in March, more than 1,100 retired military officers, known as the Flag and General Officers for the Military, signed an open letter to President Obama and Congress asking to uphold the law.

“Imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the all-volunteer force,” said the letter.

Yet, Mr. Murphy disagrees.

“First of all, I would thank them [the Flag and General Officers] for their service, but ask them to remember that the American soldier is second to none in the world. They are the most disciplined and professional fighting force in the world and I have faith in them,” Mr. Murphy said. “General [John] Shalikashvili [who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton] has said that there are 4,000 soldiers a year who voluntarily leave the armed forces due to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and 40,000 troops who might join if the ban is ended.”

He also disputes the argument that open gays serving in the armed forces is akin to male and female soldiers sharing barracks.

“I believe that if there is any type of sexual misconduct, a soldier should be discharged. There is no place in the military for that type of behavior. However, straight soldiers should be discharged as well, not only gay soldiers,” said Mr. Murphy.

Mr. Murphy also says the U.S. is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars because of the dismissal of gay soldiers. “I stand with three quarters of the American public who believe that this policy should be repealed and is a waste of taxpayers dollars,” said Mr. Murphy. “It is in the fiscal interest of our country to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Being a fiscal conservative, this is just another way the United States is wasting money.”

“There are approximately 65,000 troops right now in the armed forces who are gay and feel threatened under this policy … the time has come to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,” Mr. Murphy said.

Aaron Marcus is a political science major at Yeshiva University.

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