Good riddance to bad policy
The Senate voted today to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the 17-year-old policy forcing gay men and lesbians to lie if they wanted to serve in the military. The bill now goes to President Obama, who has said frequently and publicly that he wants to end the policy, so his signature is a safe bet.
From the NPR News story:
“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”
The repeal of this policy was long overdue. There was absolutely no evidence that making the military inclusive would harm it; in fact, there was overwhelming evidence from other countries that it would have no ill effect whatsoever. A Pentagon study undertaken in anticipation of the vote surveyed the military and found 70% of respondents didn’t think repeal would have an adverse effect. Unsurprisingly, most Republicans were adamant that repeal would take the U.S. into completely uncharted waters, and Sen. John McCain was even today grasping at those straws. As he was quoted by NPR News:
“They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of service members. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos expressed similar fears earlier in the week. “‘I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction,”’ NPR quoted him. “‘I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [Naval Medical Center] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”’
While these ridiculous, unfounded and biased fears lost today, it’s not as clear a victory as I would have liked. The actual repeal of the policy still awaits several layers of bureaucratic approval beyond the nearly year-long aforementioned study, and with not everyone in the military on board, that could take a while. Even if I were to agree that everyone would need to be trained to learn how not to discriminate, it still shouldn’t take long to figure out how to implement the new bill—there are already numerous sensitivity training workshops available. Furthermore, given the military’s top-down command structure, service members shouldn’t have too much trouble with an order as simple as, “Don’t fire people for admitting who they are.”
It’s funny to think how just this past March my pro-LGBT stance earned me an angry letter at my old job as a newspaper reporter from someone who didn’t approve of an inclusive force. The writer, who signed himself “One of the Majority,” had this to say:
Because there is resentment in commingling, the homosexuals should ask to have their own unit. As for me I would rather spend a 20 year career with people who wanted me as opposed to forcing myself in where I was not welcome.
Even if we have a long way to go, both on ending DADT and on other fronts in the fight for LGBT rights, it’s refreshing to see the kind of backward thinking demonstrated above suffer the blow it did today.