I've written about this in the past, but feel an overwhelming need to hit it again. The Pentagon has finished studying whether or not it is a good idea to repeal their "Don't ask, don't tell" policy which prohibits gay soldiers from serving openly in the military. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, based on the results of the study, is now calling on Congress to repeal the ban. According to Gates, changing the policy would create only isolated disruptions with the troops. Good. The idea a citizen cannot defend or serve his or her country because of their sexual orientation is long overdue for revision. Tens of thousands of gay Americans have fought, and many died, for their country since it’s founding. It's time to honor them.
The reason I bring this up again is to encourage you to contact your member of Congress and ask them to vote to repeal the ban. Pressure should also be put on the White House not to wait for Congress. President Obama could end the ban by executive order as Commander in Chief. This whole study process was just cover for the President who promised to end the ban when he ran for the office. Now he needs to fulfill that promise.
There is one part of this exercise which totally eludes any understanding on my part. The Pentagon went to soldiers and asked them if they would be opposed to lifting the ban. Why? Gates said 70% of service members saw a positive or neutral impact if the policy is changed. So what? Who cares? I keep going back to 1948 when President Truman ended segregation in the military by executive order. Can you imagine if he had commissioned a study and went to the white soldiers to ask if they would mind living in the same barracks as African Americans and being commanded by African Americans and having whites and African Americans fraternizing together? 1948 was the year Strom Thurmond ran for president as a Dixiecrat on a platform of segregation and any attempt to change Jim Crow laws in the South. Separate but equal was alive and well in American schools and society. Racial prejudice was celebrated in this country. Can you imagine President Truman asking if the soldiers would be offended by integrating the armed services? Where did this idea come from we should consult those who are bigoted or prejudiced for their opinions about ending a prejudicial practice? Since when is the military a democracy? What answer would Truman have received if he had asked soldiers opinions in 1948?
Some African Americans bristle when their struggles for equality are equated with the push for gay rights. Homophobia is still rampant in African American communities, particularly in African American "Christian" churches. Despite their sensitivity, there is no difference. Prejudice is prejudice and bigotry in a free society is anathema. Stereotypes that lead to prejudice are destructive and usually wrong. Defenders of segregation in the military said African Americans were too stupid to lead men into combat. They were lazy and lacked a will to fight. We laugh at such characterizations now. However, those beliefs permeated the entire military in 1948.
One of the concerns of soldiers in the study was concern about sharing barracks and bathrooms with gay or lesbian soldiers. They wanted "separate" facilities. Sound familiar? Have you ever heard this before? Notwithstanding the logistical nightmare building and maintaining separate quarters etc would cause, and realizing it could never be done in times of war, the stereotypes and prejudice such a request reveals is precisely the reason this question should never have been put to soldiers in the first place.
"Don't ask, don't tell" needs to be ended now. No American should have to face discrimination because of their sexual orientation and certainly any American who wants to put their life on the line to serve their country should be welcomed with open arms. Don't you agree?