RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The controversy over the U.S. military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy continues to heat up in Washington D.C. Gay rights activists are putting the pressure on President Obama to put an end to the policy that dates back to the Clinton administration.
Tuesday night, the Human Rights Campaign will screen the PBS documentary "Ask not" at the Richmond Holocaust Museum.
Joining us to talk about the issue and the night's event U.S. Army Veteran Jerrod Chlapowski. He is part of a group working to put an end to the don't ask, don't tell policy.
Ryan: Let's talk about tonight's event. What do you hope to accomplish?
Jerrod: The screenings we do at different stops across the country are geared more to educate the public on what don't ask don't tell really is, a video is good for that, and open up Q and A so people can address the concerns they have about repealing don't ask, don't tell.
Ryan: So you're going to have a discussion after the movie. Are you hoping people for or against will ask questions about it?
Jerrod: I think both sides need to be educated. People for the repeal need to see what they can do to help get it done because this is a law that has to go through Congress. And those who are opposed can have a forum to address their concerns, so we can maybe help alleviate their concerns.
Ryan: This policy has been in place for more than 20 years. Some military leaders say it works. Others say it needs to be repealed. From your perspective, why don't you agree that don't ask, don't tell is in place?
Jerrod: We're looking at something that doesn't really accommodate what the military is. It's military of integrity, not one deception and lies, which don't ask don't tell presumes that it is. We find that it's very damaging to national security. A number of people who are of this generation in the military don't understand why we need this law in place. You see the increase in morale among the troops, as well. It doesn't really fit with today's military.
Ryan: So you find there are soldiers that are more accepting of homosexuals in the ranks, that it's not the problem that it maybe was 20 years ago.
Jerrod: You know, in my experience, I openly served for five years, and it wasn't an issue whatsoever. We had polling and 75% show they were comfortable around lesbians and gays and that was 3 years ago. And it has certainly gone up since then.
Ryan: Let's talk about President Obama. He's promised to end don't ask, don't tell. It's still in place. Do you feel like he's doing enough?
Jerrod: Certainly when you're looking at any congressional legislation, pressure for the White House assists us. It ultimately has to be repealed by Congress, but we can benefit from the White House being a little more active on promoting that.
Ryan: Do you think it's productive that there are people heckling him at fundraisers in California and, of course, as you saw today, people chaining themselves to the White House gate? Do you think that's getting the message out to the president?
Jerrod: I think it's a good indication of the frustration we have over this issue. As American's we will see this gone. We'll see more events probably the more frustrated Americans get.
Ryan: Thank you for joining us. We'll have more about tonight's event, don't ask, don't tell. If you're for or against it, you can ask questions at 7:00 at the Holocaust Museum of Virginia.
See the video at right for the full interview.