Impending DADT repeal prompts Air Force discharge requestsBreaking News, Top Highlights Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Three U.S. Air Force members who recently identified themselves as gay have requested to be discharged in an effort to end their service obligation before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is lifted.
The controversial policy, which has prohibited gays from serving openly in the military for the past 17 years, was overturned last December in what is considered by many to be a significant victory for the gay community. Despite the imminent dissolution of the gay ban, however, service members will retain the ability to submit a sexual orientation-based discharge request until DADT is officially dissolved later this year.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the discharge requests of two women have been approved by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, who has also accepted the resignation of an airman 1st class. All three servicemembers cited sexual orientation as the reason for their separation.
An order issued last October by Defense Secretary Robert Gates requires explicit approval by the secretary of the members’ branch of service in order to be discharged under the gay ban.
Pentagon officials have reported that, having received only a minute number of discharge requests, they do not expect a widespread effort by gay service members to ‘jump ship’ before DADT ends. However, Alexander Nicholson, who serves as the Executive Director of the LGBT organization Servicemembers United, expressed his astonishment at what, in his opinion, appears to be evidence of armed forces members manipulating the system and attempting to evade their service obligations via “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Defense leaders have yet to announce a firm date for the new law to go into effect, as they must first take a number of steps to certify that it will have no adverse impact on the military. But so far, many military leaders are optimistic, stating that resistance to the policy change has been minimal.
Military and civilian leaders have already begun the painstaking process of preparing for the certification, to be lead by Gates’ impending successor Leon Panetta (who will be sworn in as the new Secretary of Defense on Friday).
Upon completion of the certification process, the repeal would take effect after a 60 day period.
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