(Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, 1975 - Not the first time and certainly not the last) With the recent fervor over the Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy fo
October 12, 2009


(Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, 1975 - Not the first time and certainly not the last)

With the recent fervor over the Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy for gays in the military, I was reminded of the case of Tech. Sergeant Leonard Matlovich in 1975, who came out and was promptly discharged from the Air Force, after having a distinguished service record that also included tours in Vietnam.

As a result, The Gay Activists Alliance of Washington D.C. held a conference entitled "Gays In The Government"where the subject of the Matlovich trial and others like it were the focus of attention. One of the observers at the trial was Professor Martin Duberman, who delivered the opening speech at the conference:

Professor Martin Duberman: “The government’s attorney actually invoked the 19th century remedy. At one point he asked Sergeant Matlovitch directly: ‘will you sign a contract never to practice homosexuality again?’. Matlovich understandably blanched in disbelief and then declined. Had he agreed to take a vow of chastity, I think it’s at least conceivable, no more than that, that he then would have been thought fit for “rehabilitation and returned for Military Service”, because there is a clause in the Air Force regulations which, the regulations say essentially, homosexuality will not be tolerated but there is a clause that says “except under the most unusual circumstances”. What Matlovich’s attornies argued at length and with great skill, was that Matlovich did qualify under that exception clause. He qualified because of the high level of his past performance on the job. But apparently an unblemished record and common talent do not make for unusual circumstances.”

Looking at this case from 1975, and the perceptions which abounded at the time, it seems so strange and naive. Yet, this is exactly what's been happening ever since "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" came into being. And, to a large extent, still happening today. An absurd notion based on faulty 19th century logic just seems incredible in 2009.

Yet . . . .

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