Thursday, October 14, 2010
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Don't Play Show Tunes in the Barracks Just Yet!
While I'm happy to wave goodbye to a ridiculous policy that was a lame compromise, open to abuse, and difficult and counterproductive to enforce, it should not have been a federal judge who overturned DADT. DADT should have been repealed by Congress. Alas, November elections are on the way, and politicians don't want to rock the boat by voting for anything ethical, sensible, or intelligent right before an election! Although the House passed a bill, approved by President Obama, that would have lifted the ban on openly gay service members, it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Now, it's likely that the federal injunction will be appealed, putting the Obama administration in the position of having to defend a law it opposes. Why? Because, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates "explained," the military needs to move slowly on this issue in order to assess the impact of gays serving openly in the military, the attitudes of service members, and to complete preparation and training.
Hunh??? Gay people are not alien beings or wild animals that require "preparation and training" to interact with, folks! These are people who are our friends, family, neighbors, teachers, and business owners, many of whom are already serving alongside straight service members right now! They just can't serve openly and can be thrown out if their sexual orientation is discovered. Someone with a secret to hide seems like much more of a security threat to me than an openly gay service person. And the best way to change the attitudes of service personnel is to start from the top. When the president, the Congress, and the Secretary of Defense issue a clear order that they not just tolerate but welcome gays in the military and that discrimination and harrassment of gay personnel will not be tolerated, it will decrease.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman integrated the military and made it illegal for anyone to make a racist remark. Did this end racism against African Americans in the military? Of course not, but today, it is unthinkable that blacks and whites would not serve together. Were all the studies in place about how integration would affect the troops? Had everyone received "preparation and training?" Had service members attitudes towards integration been thoroughly assessed? I doubt it. At some point, the waffling needs to stop, and bad policy needs to go.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara issued Department of Defense Directive 5120.36 in 1963, which stated, "Every military commander has the responsibility to oppose discriminatory practices affecting his men and their dependents and to foster equal opportunity for them." Seemed like a good policy in 1963. Still seems like a good policy today. How about it, Mr. Gates?