Sunday, November 17, 2002

Military dismisses seven gay linguists

The Army recently dismissed seven gay Arabic linguists from the military's Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, Calif., despite increased efforts to recruit linguists and a congressional report noting "a significant shortfall in linguists."

In one case, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), Private First Class Patricia Ramirez made a statement to her command disclosing her sexual orientation. In response, Ramirez received a notice stating that she would be allowed to continue working with the Army despite the fact that she was a lesbian.

Over the following weeks, however, DLI officials illegally questioned other service members and took written statements from them claiming, "I know PFC Ramirez is a lesbian," and "I have seen PFC Ramirez kissing women." It has also been reported by SLDN that other service members were threatened with disciplinary action if they did not assist in the investigation against Ramirez.

Shortly after the investigation, Ramirez was informed that she was being fired from the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

A complaint was filed by SLDN for the illegal questioning. DLI quickly responded saying that they had found no inappropriate questioning had taken place.

According to SLDN Director of Communications Steve Ralls, "It was an instance where the Army was investigating the Army and found that they had not done anything wrong."

In another situation, photographs were discovered of two male linguists that -- although non-sexual -- still led to questioning by military officials and eventual statements by the service members that they were indeed gay. They, too, have been fired under the policy.

A recent report from the U.S. House of Representatives stated, "The General Accounting Office reported a significant shortfall in linguists. After the 9/11 attacks, this shortfall actually increased slightly. A long-term linguist and analyst hiring strategy is required."

In response to how SLDN plans to proceed with the seven cases, Ralls said, "There isn't a lot we can do; their discharges have been finalized." Instead of being able to bring the issues to trial, Ralls hopes to bring as much attention to the fact that although there is a stated shortage of Army linguists, the military is still discharging some of them simply for being gay.

"We hope to really show that the policy undermines national security, and that it is in the best interest of the country to lift the ban," Ralls said.


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