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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

ĎDonít Ask, Donít Tellí to be debated at URI

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Veterans to question rationality of policy in post 9/11 world

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 14, 2006 -- Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and discharged gay service members will debate the rationality of the ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ policy at the University of Rhode Island on Thursday, Feb. 23 in Edwards Auditorium, URIís Kingston Campus. The debate, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m.

The debate is part of the Call to Duty Tour, a national lobbying effort to repeal the ban.

The ďDonít Ask, Donít Tell ď policy dates back to 1994. When President Bill Clinton suspended the Department of Defense policy banning gays from military service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as influential members of Congress vehemently opposed the suspension. After discussion, a compromise was reached with a ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ law. The law, in effect, placed the gay community into the closet. The military would not inquire about sexual orientation and gays could serve in the U.S. Armed Forces provided they did not say they were gay, want to marry someone of the same sex, or engage in homosexual activity.

With recruitment levels down during the time of war, the military canít afford to ban people who want to serve, proponents of the repeal argue. Removing the ban isnít just about civil rights, they say, itís also about national security.

More than 10,000 service members including about 140 officers were discharged from the military under the ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ policy from 1994 to 2004. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of discharges has consistently dropped, according to the Department of Defense. In 2004, 653 service members were discharged, the lowest number since 1994.

Recent data suggests that the American public favors lifting the ban. Last year, Rep. Marty Meehan introduced a bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, to repeal the ban. More than 100 members of the House of Representatives cosponsored the bill.

Last year, URIís Faculty Senate passed a resolution criticizing the policy and asked President Robert Carothers to work with the stateís congressional delegation toward its repeal.

The program is sponsored by URIís Office of the President, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science, GLBT Center, and Multicultural Center.