Don’t Ask, Just Assume

Jim Burroway

August 3rd, 2007

Military policeman Pfc. Christopher Mastromarino, after months of harassment and anti-gay slurs, appears to have been targeted by Army leaders for dismissal because they think he is gay.

The decorated soldier with an exemplary service record was court-martialed in May after indecent assault charges were filed against him in February. Those charges were brought despite the sworn testimony from witnesses that they did not consider the physical contact between themselves and Mastromarino to be an assault. Mastromarino says the rumors and slurs started when he moved in with his openly gay cousin and partner who lived in the Washington, D.C. area.

A Poll last December found that two-thirds of military personnel who served with someone they knew to be gay did not believe their presence impacted unit cohesion. That same poll found that only 52% received training on prevention of anti-gay harassment. But Pfc. Mastromarino’s case shows how attitudes fostered by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” can affect military cohesion, even involving straight servicemembers who fall under the pall of suspicion.

Joint Chiefs of Staff nominee Admiral Michael Mullen thinks it’s time to revisit the military’s ban on gays and lesbians. During his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Mullen responded to Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-Me) question about continuing dismissals of qualified servicemembers. While he says that he supports the current policy while it is in place, he also believes that Congress ought to re-evaluate it:

“I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that’s appropriate.” Mullen indicated that he would like Congress “to make its own decisions” with respect to considering a repeal of the ban.

Meanwhile, the military continues to lower its standards for new recruits, with the number of incoming soldiers with prior felony arrests or convictions tripling in the past five years. CBS News reports that the Army accepted an estimated 8,000 recruits with criminal records. SLDN delves deeper into the numbers here. And now even gang members are preferred in today’s army over decorated patriots who merely fall under the suspicion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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