FORT CARSON, CO - AUGUST 18: U.S. Army soldiers arrive home on August 18, 2009 to Fort Carson, Colorado. Approximately 575 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat team from the 4th Infantry Division returned Tuesday following a 12 month deployment to Iraq. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A gay couple, Army veterans Alex Nicholson and Jarrod Chalpowski, told University of Maryland students about the perceived hypocrisies they faced while living according to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The couple met with the school's College Democrats at a screening event for the documentary "Ask Not," to inform students about the trials gays and lesbians face in the military. "Ask Not" chronicles the effects of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay and lesbian soldiers.
The film followed both men on their 2007 “Call to Duty” tour during which they and other LBGT veterans spoke at conservative universities and protested at military recruitment offices all over the country in hopes of changing the perception of gays in the military.
More than 12,000 service members have been discharged for homosexuality, according to the film. A question at the core of the film: Why are gay and lesbian people being denied the right to serve at a time when military enrollment is at an all-time low?
President Bill Clinton introduced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 1993, and it's been generating a whirlwind of controversy ever since.
"It’s very arbitrarily enforced," Chlapowski said. "It depends on the commander."
"You have some people who try to abide by what they understand the policy to be, and they won’t discharge anybody unless they’re backed into a corner," Nicholson said. "So unless you walk in and say, ‘Hey, I’m gay, I want out of the military,’ which happens, they won’t discharge anybody unless that happens. And you have others who will sort of accept rumor and suspicion as evidence. It’s all over the place."
President Obama made a pledge in his campaign to reverse the policy, but Nicholson believes it will be at least another year before the president follows through.
Check your local listings to see the documentary aired on PBS or you can order it directly from the "Ask Not" Web site for $24.95.
Go here to see an intro to the film.