Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed
In a lame duck session, by a vote of 65 to 31, the US Senate voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)" a 17-year -old law that prevented gays from serving openly in the military. The bill now awaits the President's signature.
For some, DADT is simply a bureaucratic issue of military procedure, but for many others it is a human rights issue, a basic right denied. An estimated 13, 500 service members including laboratorians have been discharged under the 1993 law.
Once this measure has been "certified" and subjected to a mandatory 60 day grace period-but no later than the first quarter of 2011- the repeal will be final and fully in effect. What are the implications for the clinical laboratorians serving in the armed forces? Firstly, nothing changes until the end of the 60-day period. But then gay men and women will be able to serve without fear of being discharged for their sexual orientation.
The armed forces will no longer reject applications or discharge well qualified service members for being gay. This policy of "reject and discharge" has been the practice in some highly skilled areas of high demand like linguistics/translation and it is reasonable to surmise a similar situation exists in the area of clinical lab science.
In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Kenneth Katz, a San Diego physician reported on some health care implications of DADT.
He found that gay patients in the service, or those entering the service, were less likely to get treated for sexually transmitted diseases or to disclose their medical condition. Some would start treatment with a civilian doctor, enter service and not complete treatment. Many feared that disclosing details of their illness would somehow indicate their sexual orientation. He theorized that DADT has put patients as well as the armed forces at risk.
Dr Katz believes repeal of DADT will encourage more treatment of STDs; as well as reduce complications, debilitation and transmission among active duty personnel. Clinical laboratorians in the service might well see an increase in STD testing in military facilities as well.
I am interested in getting readers' perspectives on the repeal of DADT; but I especially want to hear from past and current service members.