Is Denial And Death Worth Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell?

Bookmark and Share  On June 30th, Seaman August Provost, a 29 year old man in the U.S. Navy, was found dead in a guard shack at Southern California’s Camp Pendleton.

U4NavySeamanAlthough military officials believe the cause of death may be murder and are holding a person of interest in the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station no charges have yet been filed. In the meantime although an autopsy has been conducted officials are awaiting the findings of toxicology reports and beyond these few basic facts, officials are remaining tight lipped.

Much of the reason for that just might have to do with the fact that August Provost was gay.

Provost was openly gay. He never denied his sexuality to his friends. He trusted them and did not care that they knew, but for the most part, to those who had no right or reason to know about Provost‘s sexual preference, he kept his life private and even avoided mention of his significant other, Kaether Cordero, his male partner back home in Houston, 

But sadly it looks like someone who did find out about August Provost’s sexual orientation killed him because of it.

In the days before August Provost was found dead at Camp Pendleton, family members report that he conveyed to them that he was being harassed. They urged him to report it to his superiors but Provost refused. This refusal was most likely based upon the anti-gay military tradition that is currently preserved behind the “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy which grudgingly acknowledges homosexuals in their ranks but only through a military code that enforces denial, and if broken, that code is grounds for dishonorable discharge.

Without all the circumstances and facts surrounding August Provost’s death publicly clear, one can not claim with certainty that his murder was rooted in homophobia. But several gay advocacy groups are all over this tragedy. They have even put pressure on several California congressional representatives to call for an official inquiry into Provost’s death based on the existing evidence which does point to a homicide that was committed because of Provost’s sexual orientation.

I bring this to your attention because I respect our military traditions. I respect our military for what they do, what they sacrifice and for their longstanding traditions of bravery and honor but it is on honor that I must begin to doubt our military’s commitment. Is it honorable to force a fellow American to fear the discovery of who they are, who they love and how they love them?

Is it honorable to force a fellow American to keep risks to their safety and life or infringements on their inalienable rights a secret because of potential penalties that the victim may face based on policies that discriminate against them because of who they are? I understand that it is necessary for our military to operate under codes that are somewhat different from the ones that are afforded to the general American society whom our armed forces defend. It is necessary for a cohesive flow of our military’s efficacy. But I dare say that in so far as the military code applies to sexual conduct, it is applicable to all individuals regardless of sex or even sexual preference.

Prohibitions on sexual activity that may seemingly pertain to heterosexual members of the military while serving on active duty do not force a female service member to deny that they are a woman. It simply precludes sexual activity while on duty. This same rule can still be upheld by and applied to homosexuals who are serving in the military. So why should a gay man or woman in the military be forced to serve in fear of being outed?

While these men and women in our armed forces are preserving the rights of all, why should they fear reporting that a fellow member of the military might be denying them their own civil rights or threatening their life?

The current policy which promotes this hiding of facts may have helped to kill Seaman August Provost.

Now I am not a gay pride parading, rainbow flag waving gay man. I am happier to wave the American flag which symbolizes a nation that allows me to be who I am and what I want to be, but circumstances and times have compelled me to confront the issue of gays in the military.

We are a nation at war and I know many gay men and women who have served, are currently serving and will be serving. One gay service member that I know has just completed three tours of duty in Iraq and is scheduled to report back to duty and serve in the same region in another 10 months.

These gay service members and future service members do not seek to turn lifesaving camouflage outfits into pink polka dot petticoats or convert tanks into gay pride floats and turn in their combat boots for stilettos. They do not wish to add ruffles and gold lamé ribbons to their parachutes before they get dropped into the mountains of Pakistan for a covert operation. They do not seek the chance to have their way with a fellow service man or woman in some sandy Afghani foxhole in between exploding mortar shells. They seek to preserve our nation and our freedoms. They seek to serve our nation not service someone. They are willing to risk their lives to serve our nation and yet because of Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, August Provost may have lost his life while trying to serve.

For this reason, I seek to abolish this arcane policy of official denial. I do not plan on replacing it with some sort of modern day version of the segregated, all black Muskogee Pilots of our past by implementing some sort of Gay Brigade that segregates homosexuals from heterosexuals. Nor do I wish to change any existing restrictions that pertain to the sexual activity of active duty service members. But I do seek to make sure that a gay person can serve his country without fear of discrimination and with the same protections from abuse and misconduct that are afforded to heterosexuals in the military.

The Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy is a failure. Its name may sound rational and even safe but in actuality it is dangerous. August Provost may be proof of that.

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