Fairfield University professor/Army veteran says 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is discriminatory and violates civil rights



Image: Doris LippmanFor Fairfield University Professor Doris Troth Lippman, a veteran who helps oversee the School of Nursing's 'VA Nursing Academy,' the nation's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy violates civil rights and should be repealed. "Being gay doesn't effect your ability to serve," she insisted of the policy that bans openly gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the military from serving.

While serving at an Army medical hospital during the Vietnam War, Dr. Lippman and her colleagues never even discussed whether their fellow soldiers were gay or lesbian. "We had work to do and a war to fight," she recalled. "It was nothing we talked about or thought about... All this controversy distracts from the important work of those in the military in all corners of the world, including, of course, Afghanistan and Iraq."

Recently honored by the state of Connecticut for her work on behalf of veterans, Lippman, who was vice chair of the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C., offers her position on the controversial policy, which is at the center of an ongoing fight between federal lawmakers.  

"From my personal point of view, I find it discriminatory," she emphasized. "This is really a civil rights issue and a violation of constitutional rights. It reminds me of segregation when people, because of the color of their skin, were not allowed to go to certain schools in this country or go to certain places."

"I understand that support is as high as ever among Americans for gay and lesbian people serving in the military," said Lippman, adding, "Where do we go from here? While we need to be respectful of a soldier's religious beliefs - whatever they may be - just the same, we need to be respectful of whatever sexual orientation a soldier is."

"From my own experience in the military in the 1960's, [discussion of a soldier's sexual preference] wasn't on the table," the professor continued. "It's nothing we spoke about. We were focused on our duty, caring for the injured and fighting the war. I never heard people in the Army complain about the gay or lesbian community. We were working together for a cause."

"We need to acknowledge and support diversity in this nation - and that means accepting individuals who happened to be gay or lesbian," Lippman stressed. "Repealing this policy is a step in the right direction. I believe the repeal will stick but it will be argued about for years to come. We do need to educate those Americans who are fearful of gays. Perhaps they lack an understanding of gays and are homophobic due to ignorance. That is the issue to be discussed now."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 9, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 144