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Published: Friday, 9/3/2010

The Army's loss

Katie Miller is why “don't ask, don't tell” has to be repealed — the sooner the better.

Ms. Miller is the Findlay High School graduate and now former West Point cadet who resigned from the U.S. Military Academy rather than commit to another seven years of hiding her sexual identity. Ms. Miller is a lesbian.

As a result, the Army lost a potentially outstanding officer. Ms. Miller had no troubling passing the physical tests required of cadets and ranked 17th academically in her class of more than 1,000 students.

Her departure, by itself, was not unusual. About 20 percent of cadets never graduate, most choosing — rather than being asked — to leave. But she was apparently unique in citing “don't ask, don't tell” as her reason. That doesn't mean she's the first gay cadet ever to resign, just that she's the first one honest enough to admit the ban on gays in the military was the cause.

The Army's loss was Yale University's gain. Ms. Miller, who also was accepted by Stanford University, began classes this week at Yale.

It's too bad Ms. Miller couldn't hang on for another year or two. Both the U.S. House and Senate are working on legislation that would repeal “don't ask, don't tell.”

The House included an amendment to get rid of the ban when it passed this year's defense authorization bill. The Senate is considering similar legislation but has yet to vote. In any case, repeal would be delayed until the Defense Department completes a survey of the best way to make the change and the President signs off on the plan.

About 13,000 members of the military have been discharged under “don't ask, don't tell” since 1994. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates relaxed enforcement of the ban, making it harder to oust service members for being gay. None of that would have affected Ms. Miller, who resigned because she could no longer take the pressure of living a lie.

Ms. Miller shouldn't have had to make this choice. “Don't ask, don't tell” always has been a hypocritical law, punishing honesty and rewarding service members for dishonesty.

And why? Not to protect unit cohesion or esprit de corps, as many have claimed. Polls show that three-quarters of Americans want the ban repealed. Instead, “don't ask, don't tell” was enacted to avoid a backlash from vocal, anti-gay minorities, including those in the military.

That's never been a good enough reason to deny gays and lesbians the right to serve the country they love. And it's not enough to justify a policy that denies the military the service of talented officers such as Ms. Miller.



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