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 Post subject: Time to Ask and Tell!
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 5:39 am 
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Time to Ask and Tell!

History Professor Steve Estes writes from a historical perspective as to why its time to acknowledge the value of gay men and women in the military:

"To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Armed Forces," Pres. Truman wrote to Lt. Robert Ricks in 1945, "I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation." Ricks, a young Army Air Force navigator who had survived several months in Dachau as a prisoner of war, had certainly earned the nation's gratitude. The note from Truman was mailed to millions of American GIs at the end of World War II. Hundreds of thousands of them, like Ricks, were gay.

This isn't news, of course. It's history. So it's time to acknowledge the historic service of veterans like Robert Ricks as Congress considers the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a law that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The evolution of military policies toward gays and lesbians and the inconsistent enforcement of these polices suggest that it's time to bring this law into the 21st century by lifting the ban.

Behind the official ban on open gay military service lies a policy that has been continually reconsidered and revised. Before the 1940s, the Department of War assumed that gays would make bad soldiers because of stereotypes of effeminacy. Military men caught committing sodomy faced courts-martial. During World War II, however, military manpower needs led to a new policy of treating homosexuality as a psychological problem. Some gays were dishonorably discharged after psychological evaluations, but thousands more were retained by the armed forces that tacitly recognized the value of gay troops.

Steve Estes is an associate professor of history at Sonoma State University He is the editor of the forthcoming book Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out.

{Steve Estes, History Department, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928. Telephone: (707)664-2424; fax: (707)664-3920; e-mail:]


"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac

"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."

~Harry S. Truman

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