Anti-gay policy ends careers of 8 isle troops
Eight service members stationed at Hawaii military installations were among the 742 discharged last year under the Pentagon's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays.
Under the data released by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, three were soldiers from Schofield Barracks, one was from Fort Shafter, one was a Marine from Kaneohe Bay, two were sailors from Pearl Harbor Naval Base and one was a sailor from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
A news release from the organization said dismissals increased to 742 last year from 668 in 2004.
The New York Times said the organization had gotten the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Army discharged 386 soldiers in 2005, up from 325 the year before, the service member organization reported. The Air Force dismissed 88 airmen, down from 92 in 2004; the Navy discharged 177 members, the same as the prior year; 75arines were discharged, up from 59 the year before; and the Coast Guard discharged 16 men and women, compared with 15 in 2004.
The organization estimates that there are currently 65,000 gays serving in the armed forces. It reported the largest increase of discharges was at Fort Campbell, Ky., where Pfc. Barry Winchell was murdered in 1999 by soldiers who believed he was gay. In 2004 the base discharged 19 soldiers under the ban; that number climbed to 49 in 2005.
Other Army bases that recorded increases were Fort Sill, Okla., from eight in 2004 to 27; and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., from 40 in 2004 to 60.
In the Marine Corps at Parris Island, S.C., 22 Marines were discharged in 2005, compared with 12 the prior year.
Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a written statement: "When the Pentagon fires skilled service members for being gay, like former Arabic linguist Bleu Copas, it is being utterly irresponsible.
"No American cares if the person who thwarts a plot to blow up an airplane is gay. We care that our nation is secure. Congress should pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act and repeal the archaic and counterproductive 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law immediately."
"Those who serve our country deserve respect and honor, not pink slips and dismissals."
The organization said U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan of Massachusetts introduced the bill last year to repeal the policy on gay service members. Meehan, a Democrat, has managed to find 118 supporters, including five Republicans, for the bill.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was drafted by President Bill Clinton and only allows the military to investigate a service member when there is evidence of homosexual conduct.