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Friday, January 14, 2005

Military Has Discharged 26 Gay Linguists

Guardian

By KIM CURTIS
Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military - at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers - is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay. The military did not break down the discharges by year, but said some, but not all, of the additional 13 discharges of Arabic speakers occurred in 2004.

Aaron Belkin, the center's director, said he wants the public to see the real costs of ``don't ask, don't tell.''

``We had a language problem after 9/11 and we still have a language problem,'' Belkin said Wednesday.

The military's ``don't ask, don't tell'' policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

``The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security,'' said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. ``It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job.''

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