Openly gay soldiers are serving in the US forces in Iraq despite the long-standing don’t ask, don’t tell policy, a US Army spokesperson says.

Spokesperson Kim Waldron told a Washington Blade reporter the don’t ask, don’t tell policy of discharging openly gay soldiers could be used by straight soldiers to get out of active duty in Iraq.

Waldron said reserve and National Guard soldiers who told their superior officers they were gay would still be sent to Iraq, with the matter postponed until they returned.

The University of California’s Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military has since received documents proving Waldron’s statements were true. Director Aaron Belkin said officials had repeatedly denied sending openly gay soldiers into combat.

The military has claimed for years that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve in uniform would undermine unit cohesion, Belkin said.

According to the Center’s statistical records, discharges on the grounds of homosexuality had dropped during wartime in every US conflict since World War II.

Until the Washington Blade‘s report, the US government had always denied there was any policy in place to stop discharging openly gay soldiers when active troops were in short supply.

Although a US Army official said the don’t ask, don’t tell policy had not changed, Belkin told the Blade Waldron’s comments and the documents the Center had received proved what many gay servicemen and women had believed for years: they were far more likely to be discharged during peace time than when the nation was at war.

Scholars, lawyers, and most importantly, gay service members themselves, have long known of the military’s practice of looking the other way when it’s time to fight a war, he said.

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