Column: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Get AIDS?

This story was written by Othman O'Malley, Daily Illini

If you've tuned in to C-SPAN recently you may have caught a glimpse of an interesting hearing. It involved bands of violent lesbians, "forced cohabitation" with gay men, the spread of AIDS and "skin to skin" contact. Oh my! What on earth was the topic of this discussion, and why was it being conducted in the hallowed confines of the people's Congress? No, it wasn't Sen. Larry Craig's last conversation with Pastor Haggard. It was a House Armed Services personnel subcommittee hearing on "Don't ask, don't tell."

Personally, I am surprised that this is still a point of contention. There are gays and lesbians that work in all sorts of environments. Consider that only 20 years ago AIDS was seen as a "gay disease." Or that gay bars could be raided and people arrested for simply being gay. Our understanding of gay and lesbian sexuality has become more nuanced. The more we learn about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, the more people realize what was always true ... they have the same aspirations and capabilities as any other group. Which makes it increasingly disgraceful and embarrassing that they are denied their basic civil rights, among them the right to serve their country.

This brings me back to the House hearing. Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness and anti-gay activist, seems to have exiled her brain to a cave on Mars for the last 20 or so years. Among her many reasons for not permitting gays and lesbians in the military was the prevalence of "inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community."

She claims that "Don't ask, don't tell" contributes to the spread of AIDS. She mentioned a case of "black lesbian" gang rapists who prey on new recruits. My goodness me. What is happening to this country? Forget about inadequate numbers of armored humvees, mortars, IEDs, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and extended deployments. It is the bands of black lesbians that keep our troops up at night. Thank god for Donnelly and her Center for Military Readiness.

Seated directly to Donnelly's right were two gay veterans. One was Capt. Joan Darrah, a 30-year veteran of the Navy. On Sept. 11, she missed being killed in the attack on the Pentagon byseven minutes. Had she died, her partner of many years would not have been notified by the military. She dared not put her partner down as an emergency contact, lest she be outed and fired from her job.

Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay man who lost his leg in Iraq, was very obviously angered by Donnelly's tirade. Both Democrats and Republicans, some of them veterans themselves, were quite disturbed by Donnelly's testimony.

There are many countries that allow openly homosexual men and women to serve in their country's military. Among them are the British and Israeli Armed Forces, two of the most formidable military forces in the world. As Capt. Darrah and Staff Sgt. Alva have shown, being gay does not make one less brave or competent. Having them defend us makes us a stronger nation.