Legitimate needs regarding discipline and military readiness have led the U.S. armed forces to impose restrictions on servicemembers that would not be appropriate in other spheres of employment. There is no justification in the military, however, for restrictions upon a particular class of persons based on their identity or status-in this case, homosexuality. Servicemembers, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be judged equally on standards of professionalism and discipline. "Don't ask, don't tell" unjustifiably requires homosexuals and bisexuals to adhere to rules not applicable to heterosexuals, and leads to their discharge when they do not.
The policy reflects and reinforces prejudice and hostility. There is no evidence to support the military's contention that restrictions on gays and lesbians are necessary to maintain unit cohesion and military readiness. The presence of openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals within the armed forces of numerous countries shows that prejudice against sexual minorities can be overcome without loss of military effectiveness. The U.S. military's integration of African-Americans-a group that faced similar obstacles and arguments by those who opposed its inclusion-suggests that diversity can coexist with cohesion, and that steps can be taken to overcome bias among U.S. military personnel.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates the human rights of servicemembers, helps maintain an anti-gay environment in the military, and creates a barrier to addressing anti-gay harassment. It is time for the United States to repeal the policy and permit the full and open integration of homosexuals and bisexuals into the U.S. military. In 1948, President Truman was courageous to insist on the integration of black servicemembers; more than fifty years later, it is time for political and military leaders to end a policy against homosexuals that is unworkable, unfair, unjust, and harmful to the institution it is supposed to protect.