OUTLook protests military policy

Amanda Cook

Protestors gathered outside of the District Court Office on Washington Street. on Saturday, Oct. 2 in response to the lack of government action in repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. The law prevents openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals from participating in the military service.

Meredith Gasco, an NMU student, organized the protest. Gasco is president of OUTLook, one of NMU’s two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered organizations on campus. Some OUTLook members were present, as well as other NMU students, high school students and community members. Gasco estimates that there were between 20 and 25 protesters at the busiest point.

“My main goal was awareness and visibility, and I think we achieved that,” Gasco said.

The protestors faced some negative reactions from passersby. However, despite the occasional negative reaction, most of the responses they received were positive.

“We got a lot of horn honks and thumbs ups,” Gasco said.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was part of the Defense Authorization Act, which received only 56 of the 60 votes in the senate required to pass into law. The subject will not be reintroduced until after the November senate elections.

Gasco, who has close relationships with members of the armed forces, calls DADT “outdated” and essentially “job discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Supporters of DADT worry that if it is repealed, military effectiveness and morale will decrease. Gasco disagrees.

“If you’re gay in the military, you have to live with the fear of being investigated and discharged. You have to lie about your relationships. If you are being investigated or discharged, you risk losing your military benefits and pay … I think that harms cohesion and morale way more than having an openly gay person in the unit would,” Gasco said.

She also pointed out the stress that DADT can cause to friends and family of homosexual servicemen and women, who must keep relationship information they know under wraps.

“They’re forced to live with this 24/7 silence,” Gasco said.

Despite setbacks, she remains optimistic that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell could be repealed in the near future. “The people against (repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) are a really vocal minority…. It’s just a matter of waiting for attitudes to change,” Gasco said.