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Sunday, July 22, 2007

SOUND OFF: TELLING TRANSLATORS

Asked about the U.S. military's recent expulsion of 58 desperately needed Arabic-language experts because they were gay, my readers predictably voiced strong opinions about whether the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality should stay in place.

"I'm assuming that the 58 linguists knew the law, and thus the consequence," writes Joe Read of Anaheim, Calif. "The only assumption I can draw is that they did not want to be in the military any more."

Abandoning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy "specifically for Arabic translators, without scrapping it altogether, adds just another layer of unethical behavior," writes Mark Shirilau of Irvine, Calif. Until the government lifts the ban on gays in the military, he believes, it shouldn't "discriminate in discrimination."

"I can understand why the military would expel 58 Arabic-language interpreters who are gay," writes Burl Estes of Mission Viejo, Calif, "even though we need people with their skills. In Muslim countries homosexuality is a crime. The argument that homosexuality should be tolerated in Muslim countries is fine, but that's as far as it goes -- an argument."

"It's time to admit the truth that the men and women who are defending our freedom have the God-given right to openly live as gay and lesbians in the military," writes Jack Raab of Westmont, Ill.

Check out other opinions at The Right Thing: SOUND OFF: DON'T ASK, DON'T TRANSLATE? or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

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