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Don't ask, don't tell and by all means don't post. That's the message being delivered this week to gay service men and women after a rash of online outings have much needed military personnel facing discharges.

Six members of the US military have been outed this year when officials were pointed to online personal ads that contained information in violation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gays in the military policy, according to non-profit watchdog Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). The personal ads contained photos of the soldiers and notes revealing the soldiers' sexual preferences. It turns out that angry ex-lovers and embittered roommates have turned to online outing as their method of choice for abusing and already abusive policy.

"All six of them were outed by someone they knew either from a relationship or a roommate situation," said Steve Ralls, director of communications at SLDN. "Unfortunately, if you indicate that you are gay or lesbian that does violate the "don't tell" provision of the policy and is enough to act on.

"Don't ask, don't tell is being used as an official tool of vengeance against military members, which, if you look at the men and woman the military is losing right now, is a national security issue."

True enough. The US is having a hard time keeping soldiers in Iraq and finding new ones to send off. You'd think virtual gossip could be ignored in such desperate times. Hell, there are human pyramids to build. But logic isn't always the military's best friend. (See the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for evidence.)

SLDN notes that online outing appears to be on the rise.

"Since January, we have seen more and more online outing cases coming our way," Ralls said. Sites such as Gay.com, Yahoo personals and Gaydar.co.uk have proved to be popular homosexual hunting grounds for the disgruntled.

"Service members should know that it is extremely risky to go online, especially with a photo, and declare your sexual orientation," Ralls said.

SLDN works to make sure those who are outed receive the correct discharge characterization and any applicable benefits. ®

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