- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Haven Herrin would seem to be an ideal candidate for military recruiters.

She can easily run five miles and was valedictorian of her college class. “Frankly, I’m exactly the kind of person the military says it wants,” she said.

But when Miss Herrin tried to sign up for the Minnesota National Guard, she was turned down because she told the recruiter she is a lesbian — a revelation that tripped the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly homosexual service members.

Her admission was the opening round of a nationwide campaign against the 13-year-old policy by a group of young activists. In the next few months, homosexual men and women in their late teens and early 20s will attempt to enlist at recruiting offices in 30 cities. They also will disclose their sexual orientation.

If they are rebuffed, the activists plan to stage sit-ins at the offices, hoping to attract press coverage and support from a public they think increasingly opposes the ban.

Organizers have dubbed the campaign Right to Serve. It was conceived by Miss Herrin and Jacob Reitan, the 24-year-old young adult coordinator for the Virginia-based homosexual rights group called Soulforce.

The Pentagon’s policy on homosexuals is “as clear-cut an example of discrimination that you could find,” Mr. Reitan said. “No one can deny it, and it’s happening every day.”

The policy, signed into law by President Clinton, requires homosexual service members to keep their sexual preference hidden and refrain from same-sex sexual conduct.

The military is prohibited from asking recruits about their sexual orientation, and commanders are limited in their ability to investigate rumors or accusations of homosexuality in the ranks.

Since the policy was adopted, more than 11,000 homosexual service members have been discharged, according to the Service Members Legal Defense Network, which is opposed to the policy. Critics argue that in many cases military officials have violated the spirit of the law, pursuing service members based on rumors or innuendo.

“Even service members who try to keep their end of the deal — who ‘don’t tell’ — are being routinely subjected to malicious outings and investigations,” said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the network.

Even its supporters acknowledge that don’t ask, don’t tell isn’t perfect.

“It’s like what Churchill said about democracy — it’s the worst system possible, except for all the other ones,” said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University who helped craft the policy.

But, Mr. Moskos said, allowing openly homosexual service members would hurt the morale of the military rank and file and make many recruits uncomfortable.

“There are few situations in life where you’re forced to live in intimate circumstances not of your choosing,” he said.

The Right to Serve activists know they are in for a lengthy battle. President Bush supports don’t ask, don’t tell, and legislation in Congress to overturn it has few supporters from the Republican majority.

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