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Crossposted from My Left Wing

Overlooked in the wake of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win was this tidbit in yesterday’s news:

Women in the service are far more likely than men to be discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Women accounted for 15 percent of all active-duty and reserve members of the military but more than one-third of the 619 people discharged last year because of their sexual orientation.

The disparity was particularly striking in the Air Force, where women represented 20 percent of all personnel but 61 percent of those expelled.

Not surprising, considering the Air Force Academy’s strong ties to fundamentalist Christianity.

According to an account published in the Los Angeles Times, Mikey Weinstein, a graduate of the academy and lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is Jewish, was outraged by the religious bigotry expressed against his son Curtis when he entered the academy. His son was called a "filthy Jew," among other slurs.

Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has done great work bringing to light the hostility at the Air Force Academy, and throughout the ranks of the Air Force, not just to Jews, but to anyone who believes in anything other than evangelical Christianity.

Religious intolerance may explain the antipathy toward gays in the military, but the disproportionate application of DADT toward women contradicts research in this field which shows that heterosexuals generally are more critical of homosexuals of their own sex.

On the face of it this makes intuitive sense, and in a military context, one would assume that if a service member was homophobic, his or her discomfort would be greater with homosexual members of their own sex, with whom they would need to share quarters.

But the research contradicts the disproportionate expulsion of lesbians from the armed forces under DADT.

Misogyny runs deep in the military.  The Tailhook Scandal is only one, albeit well-publicized, incident.  

One-third of all military women report being sexually harassed, and the number of service members who claim to have observed sexual harassment on the job is more than double that figure.

In 2008, reports of sexual assaults were up across the military, with a marked increase among troops in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Reports of sexual assault among U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan rose 26 percent from the previous year, according to an annual Pentagon report presented to Congress on Tuesday.

As in civilian life, it is probable that the number of reported sexual assaults is significantly lower than the number of actual assaults which occur.

It has been argued that including women in Selective Service registration would serve to ameliorate some of the disparate treatment of military women, but I think the problems are much deeper than that, and a simple change of paperwork cannot effect culture change.

Tomorrow, President Obama will address the Human Rights Campaign.  I think it would be the perfect venue to announce the immediate repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell--a failed policy which only serves to punish men, and particularly women, who want to serve their country.

They're willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, shouldn't we accord them the dignity they deserve?

Originally posted to puzzled on Fri Oct 09, 2009 at 03:01 PM PDT.

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