Civil Liberties

Fired Navy Translator Speaks


Writing in the New York Times, former Navy petty officer and Arabic translator Stephen Benjamin explains his dismissal under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy:

I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq.

But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay.


My supervisors did not want to lose me. Most of my peers knew I was gay, and that didn't bother them. I was always accepted as a member of the team. And my experience was not anomalous: polls of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan show an overwhelming majority are comfortable with gays. Many were aware of at least one gay person in their unit and had no problem with it.

Note that Benjamin wasn't asked and didn't tell; Naval authorities discovered casual—not explicit— instant messages indicating that both he and his roommate were gay.

Whole frustrating story here.