This week President Obama said, again, that he intended to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for the United States military. We’ll see now how long it takes for him to follow through. But, for law enforcement, ending this policy is a bit more complicated because it really only exists within the profession’s culture. In many states, this reality of our culture is reinforced by non-inclusive employment discrimination laws that continue to allow sexual orientation to be a reason for firing someone; even a police officer.
It simply doesn’t work to say in the work place, “look, I don’t care if you’re gay, just keep it to yourself.” In fact, doing so causes a gay officer to lie every Monday morning when asked by their straight peers, “so, what did you do this weekend?” The real danger for closeted law enforcement personnel who are oppressed with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture is that they are forced to make a decision about whether to lie and risk being terminated for dishonesty or to come out and risk being rejected by their peers or even fired for simply being who they are.
I believe the problems created by the military’s official “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy extend beyond the military base. This policy too is reinforcing a negative and damaging aspect of law enforcement culture that must be ended. I believe it is much more important for a police officer to be known and trusted to be always truthful in both his or her personal and official life than it is to keep sexual orientation in the closet for whatever unexplainable purpose that might serve.
Now would be another great opportunity to write your representatives and demand they get rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Want to know more? Click here to read about some of the successful military personnel who were fired for being who they are.