Last week, Second Lieutenant Carina Cuellar expressed her frustration with the law school’s apparent disdain for the U.S. military and its members. She associated opposition to on-campus JAG recruiting with a general lack of respect for the military at HLS. As a former Marine Sergeant with direct experience of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I would like to express a different view. To everybody who has spoken out against discrimination in the ranks and urged Harvard to uphold the rights and dignity of its student body, thank you. The men and women who have served honorably over the life of this country, and whose contributions have been scorned on account of their sexual orientation would thank you too, I think.
On several occasions during my tour of duty, I saw Marines physically or verbally attacked by other Marines who believed them to be gay. In most cases, the incidents were not reported. Since investigations into such misconduct often prompt an examination of the victim’s sexual orientation, many complaints are suppressed for fear that they will lead to the victim’s discharge. Of the incidents I am familiar with, the only case officially reported did in fact result in the victim being discharged. The aggressors received a reprimand and thirty days of extra duty. The investigation itself paralyzed the unit and left deep divisions among its members. I was left wondering how an organization that proclaims “honor, courage, and commitment” as its core values could so blatantly fail to live up to them.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a detrimental policy held in place by officials who would rather entertain their own beliefs and prejudices than foster a military that is as strong, just, and efficient as it can be. Don’t let accusations of ingratitude cloud the real issues: discrimination has forced its way onto campus via the Solomon amendment. The law school has declined to pursue even those remedies that would not threaten its funding. We owe it to ourselves and, if you like, to the men and women serving their country, to struggle against this threat.