Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Bob Roehr
The arbitrary and absurd nature of the anti-gay military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is exemplified by Sgt. Darren Manzella. Even after he told his Army commanders, and the nation as a whole in a Dec. 16 interview on the CBS News program 60 Minutes, that he is openly gay, he continues to serve in the military.
Manzella enlisted in the Army after graduating from college in 2002, in part because of the financial incentives that helped with his education loans. His work through college as a psychiatric counselor made him a perfect fit to become a medic. After additional training in treating battlefield wounds, he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, the sprawling base in Texas.
Manzella spoke at a Jan. 8 news conference at the National Press Club of how his unit deployed to Iraq in 2004, where he participated in more than a hundred combat patrols, performing a variety of medical services for U.S. and Iraq military personnel and civilians. He received glowing performance reviews and advanced steadily in grade.
He re-enlisted for another six years, in February 2005, while he was still in Iraq. When asked why he re-enlisted he said, “I not only loved my job, I was good at my job. To know that people are still alive because of you, it was very intoxicating. Families still have their sons or their daughters. I was very good at my job. I didn’t see any reasons not to re-enlist.”
Manzella and his 1st Cavalry unit rotated back to Ft. Hood in March 2005. In August 2006, “I started receiving emails and phone calls threatening that I was under investigation for being gay.” He contacted the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which has advised him ever since.
The threats increased and became more derogatory and the added stress began to affect his job performance. That is when Manzella went to his supervisor and explained the situation. Many of his coworkers were supportive, they would go out to dinner with Manzella and his boyfriend.
After a three-week investigation, his battalion commander said they “had found no proof of his homosexuality.” This conclusion was reached after Manzella had acknowledged that he is gay and had shown them pictures and video of him and his boyfriend kissing.
The division was redeployed to Iraq in October 2006. He ended up serving much of that second tour in medical liaison position in Kuwait, filling a position generally taken by a person three ranks higher. “All of my colleagues knew I was gay, and it made no difference.”
Manzella taped his interview with 60 Minutes in Kuwait and told his commanders about it immediately prior to the program airing. His section commander said, “‘Wow, you can’t go back now.’ He stood up and wished me the best of luck, saying it is unfortunate that policies like this are in place.”
The Sergeant returned to the U.S. just before Christmas and spent the holidays with his family in upstate New York. He has heard nothing from his superiors and will return to Ft. Hood shortly.
.Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, said there has been “a clear and undeniable shift in attitudes regarding DADT and the issue of open and honest service in our military.” Polling data indicates that the American public overwhelming supports repeal.
.”Within the military, troops and commands increasingly are welcoming and supporting their gay colleagues.” He said SLDN is aware of at least 500 soldiers who are serving openly today. “Commands do not want to discharge qualified troops simply because they are gay.”
“It is time to officially give commands the authority to retain troops and end the unnecessary, arbitrary enforcement of the congressional gay ban.” Sarvis called on Congress to repeal DADT.
The Democrats winning control of both houses of Congress in 2006 prompted SLDN to reconsider its strategy of ending the ban. It began to think that working through Congress would be faster than working through the courts. However, the leading proponent of repeal legislation in the House retired and that meant that the anticipated hearing on the legislation did not occur. Recruitment of the right cosponsors in the Senate has delayed introduction of the measure in that chamber.
Meanwhile, legal wheels continue to turn in federal courthouses in Boston and Los Angeles; decisions on those pending challenges could come at any time. It would take an additional 3-5 years for the parties to carry the appeals process forward through the Supreme Court.
The wild card in both processes is the White House. The new President might decide to back legislation lifting the ban, or if a favorable court ruling comes down, decide not to appeal it to a higher level.