Don’t Ask, But Do Tell (On How To End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell)

On Saturday President Barack Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, vowing to end discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers in the Armed Forces via the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” policy. The policy, set up during the Clinton Administration, allows homosexuals to serve as long as they are not “out” or open about their sexuality. It was hastily set up when President Bill Clinton’s hopes of ending sexual discrimination in the military hit a wall in the early 1990s.

Attitudes have changed some since the early 1990s. While homosexuals still face discrimination, American society has become more open to the idea of gays and lesbians being open about their sexuality. And with the US in the midst of prosecuting two wars and needing every Marine, soldier and sailor they can gather, news of servicemen and women being discharged due to DADT has come at a cost.

More after the jump.

Obama ran for president under the pretense that he would end the policy and allow for gays to serve openly as they do in the United Kingdom, Israel and other Western countries. Alas, a lot of people, including myself at times, are antsy to see the president and Congress follow through on this promise.

Considering the fact that most arguments against gays serving openly are the same ones that were given against women, blacks and other minorities (it would disturb moral, cause fights, ruin unit cohesion, etc.), I’m someone who thinks these arguments have always been false arguments rooted in homophobia, just as the others were cloaked in racism and sexism. If you’re getting shot at, in trouble or hurt, do you honestly care about the sexual orientation of the soldier coming to save you? No, no. You say. I’d rather just bleed to death to the gay medic. Please don’t fly me out of this hell hole Lesbian helicopter pilot. I’m just going to lie here and die rather than be helped by some queers. It’s ridiculous.

So I can understand many Liberals and members of the gay, lesbian and transgendered community when they express their angst over why someone they elected to end DADT hasn’t ended it yet. (see Maddow, Rachel)

It’s a hurry up and wait situation. Of course you want DADT to end and you want Obama to follow through on his promise, but there is the matter of Congress and Obama is, quite possibly, the most “gay-friendly” president since Clinton botched DADT. He’s only the second president to address the Human Rights Campaign and we all know how hard it is to nail down any politician, regardless of party, who isn’t the Bay Area’s own Nancy Pelosi or openly gay congressman Barney Frank on gay issues.

There’s also the fact that Obama is drowning in issues and expectations — Nobel Peace Prize, anyone? He has the healthcare crisis, the economic crisis, two wars, terrorism, North Korea, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iran, the energy crisis, a gaggle of Bush-era loose ends that need tightening and whatever the disaster of the week is. (I think this week is more Afghanistan woes.) There’s a real fear that if he tossed DADT up on the pile everything could come crashing down. Still, how do you prioritize so many important priorities? Not dealing with DADT leads to more and more servicemen and women being discharged from the military when you need them to fight — which doesn’t exactly help those two wars.

Plus you have a wavering base that while isn’t under much threat of going with the pro-DADT other team, could become less impassioned, more disillusioned and not show their support at all.

From the Associated Press:

Some advocates said they already have heard Obama’s promises and now they want a timeline. Cleve Jones, a pioneer activist and creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, said Obama delivered a brilliant speech, but added “it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when.”

“He repeated his promises that he’s made to us before, but he did not indicate when he would accomplish these goals and we’ve been waiting for a while now,” said Jones, national co-chair of a major gay-rights rally scheduled for Sunday on the National Mall.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said he was encouraged to hear Obama’s pledge but added “an opportunity was missed tonight.” He said his group “was disappointed the president did not lay out a timeline and specifics for repeal.”

Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.

He expressed strong support for the HRC agenda of ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.

It’s good that Obama is willing to address issues pertaining to gender and sexuality directly, but I too would like to hear something like a timeline sooner rather than later. I understand the weight of the world and its expectations hang on the president’s shoulders, but I voted for Obama for several reasons. Restoring common sense by booting DADT was one of them. Let’s kepp the common sense parade marching on and get some specifics on how this policy will end.

16 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, But Do Tell (On How To End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell)

  1. Obama’s worried about re-election. This might be the thing that would upset the black religious community and turn them off to Obama. Not saying that Obama "needs" the black religious vote. But couldn’t you imagine the preachers coming out against Obama? Hell, they voted for Bush in 2004.

  2. Obama needs to act on DADT not only b/c he promised to but also b/c it is the right thing to do. Besides, the longer he waits to act, the harder I think it will be to to fix.

  3. an easy way to get DADT repealed is to put two options on the table as alternatives since we’re clearly not leaving Iraq or Afghanistan any time soon.1) Ok, well since we can’t have GLBT folks openly serve then we should have a draft. And of course, the only way to get out of the draft is if you are GLBT & health issues. I mean the point of a volunteer military is that anyone who is willing to serve should be able to serve. But since anybody can’t volunteer we should just do a draft. or 2) We could be like some of our rivals and friends and have 2 year compulsory military service for all young adults. Of course, since GLBT folks can’t openly and voluntarily serve then they would be exempt but I mean who cares at least our military wouldn’t falter.If those two things came to the table I’m sure the DADT issue would be resolved very quickly.

  4. hmmm, on a practical level I can see why people in the military wouldn’t want DADT changed until Congress formally deals with Homosexual Marriage. If I was an Military Administrator, I would be worried that as soon as DADT is changes, same sex partners would then want some type of benefits or insurance. I’m all for changing DADT but I think congress has to address gay marriage first or else the military will be recalcitrant about DADT.

  5. the number of homosexual soldiers is incredibly small in relation to that of straight soldiers. so to state that by discharging openly gay soldiers, you’re hurting the war effort it in itself a rather silly statement. has anyone stopped to ask how the soldiers themselves who are on the front lines think about this? the fact of the matter is that people still disagree vehemently whether or not homosexuality is right, ect. will allowing openly gay soldiers to serve open rifts among the gay and straight soldiers? and will this rift not only decrease moral, but also increase in the deaths of homosexual soldiers? if someone disagrees and doesn’t like your lifestyle, how do you know they’ll stick their neck out of you in that pinch? only in america will people who aren’t in the military try to dictate how the military operates. and obama shouldn’t put this at the top of the list with all of the other problems that this country has. dont ask don’t tell is among the least of his problems.

  6. swiv… The same argument about morale that you’re making is exactly the same argument that was made about integrating the Armed Forces 50 years ago. Regarding equal protection under the law (14th Amendment to the Constitution) it doesn’t matter if a group is a minority or not if they are being denied Constitutionally guaranteed rights. As for your argument that there are so few that it doesn’t matter, that’s just callous, not to mention a guy like Lt. Dan Choi who is an Arabic language speaker is being discharged because he’s gay at a time when there are enough Arabic language speakers already, so one person does matter from a strategic standpoint. Lastly, just so you can base your position on facts and not baseless opinion, consider the following "a 2006 Zogby poll of 545 troops who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan found that 72 percent are personally comfortable interacting with gays." which reflects a generational divide between the younger, more tolerant enlisted soldiers and typically older, more intolerant senior officers. Even some retired generals have called for its repeal.DADT will fall, because it’s unfair, un-American and outdated.

  7. ooops….*are not* enough Arabic language speakers. One more point: To insinuate that trained military personnel are so undisciplined and reckless that they’d jeopardize their safety and the success of a mission because they may or may not agree with someone’s "lifestyle" (which is a dubious characterization at best), is an insult to the professionalism of our Armed Forces.

  8. I believe DADT should have been gone ages ago. I’m not willing to pick up a gun and put my life on the line, so I have no qualms about anyone else who wants to, whatever their sexual orientation. that, in this day and age, when the Armed Services have lowered their standards so much to the point that they allow ACTUAL CRIMINALS in….you’d exclude LAW ABIDING PEOPLE, because of whom they sleep with…nope…don’t think so.

  9. i said nothing about them being undisciplined or reckless. but you’d be fooling yourself to think that personal feelings don’t come into decisions such as these. it happens. whether or not you’d like to admit it. our soldiers are still human, and many of them find the lifestyle immoral. and training won’t take that away. call it callous all you want. the gay population alone is small in relation to the overall population, so it would also probably be smallER in relation to the overall population of the military. one person doesn’t matter from a strategic standpoint. there’s always someone with the same skill set you have that can and will be able to replace you. here’s an analysis of that zogby poll 13 of the Zogby poll asked, "Do you agree or disagree with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?" Forty percent of the men disagreed, and 39 percent of all active-duty personnel likewise disagreed. The Army had the lowest percentage of those agreeing with the question at 23 percent.The average unit in the military is the company, which consists of approximately 120 personnel. Therefore, in an average Army combat unit of all or mostly men there are approximately 48 soldiers who do not agree with openly serving homosexual service members, there are only 28 soldiers who are expressly comfortable with them, 42 who are neutral, and one or two homosexual members.

  10. It’s way past time for this law to be abandoned. Black churches need to come into the 21 centry. They sit among adulters all kind of people that their bible warn them against. If this turns them off the President, they need to recheck their agendas.

  11. swiv….either way…a majority, whether slim or large, of the actual people in the military are ok with gays serving.This is also completely besides the point of whether it’s fair and like the openly racist policies of a bygone era, inherently unequal and thus a civil rights issue rather than one of popularity.shorter me…you’re wrong on both counts of your argument…let that soak in.

  12. what points am i wrong on? neutral doesn’t mean ok. maybe in "reading is not fundamental" world, but not everywhere else. that means they just don’t care. here’s a lesson on simple mathematics:48/120 don’t like gays in the military (40%)42/120 don’t care if gays are in the military (35%)28/120 are ok with gays in the military (23%)2/120 are gay (less than 2%)that’s looking beyond the surface of a singular peice of information. you know how to do that, right?the percentage of homosexual soldiers is small (less than 2 percent in that analysis of the zogby poll….which is actually smaller than the 10 percent homosexual of the general population) in relation to the larger body. and people can be replaced easily within it’s structure, so in reality one soldier means nothing in the big scheme of things. just because you lack the logical thought process to understand a concept like that doesn’t mean i’m wrong. and personal feelings DO come into making decisions on life and death. just because you choose to ignore it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. our military is still made up of humans who have personal biases who can and sometimes do act on those biases. if civilians are capable of being biased and prejudiced, certainly solders are as well. let me know if i need to use smaller words for your to understand.

  13. and just in case you don’t feel like reading:It is clear beyond question that the homosexual person who seeks to serve in the military believes that his or her lifestyle is perfectly moral and no one will ever convince them otherwise. What may be less clear, however, is that many of those religious persons who serve in the military are convinced that the homosexual lifestyle is immoral, and that their views on the subject are as valid as anyone’s. By lifting the ban against openly serving homosexuals in the military, therefore, we force a situation whereby unit commanders must deal with an underlying tension that must be perpetually managed, and will likely undermine their best efforts to form a harmonious, well-trained fighting unit. How is this in the national interest? As noted in the Zogby poll, of those service members who say they are certain homosexuals serve in their unit, the vast majority reports the total in their unit to be one or two. Are we to say, in the name of fairness, that for the sake of these two or three homosexual service members — or even if it’s five or six — we will ask the 25-30 religious service members who oppose homosexuality to compromise their convictions?

  14. swiv: I don’t understand how expecting religious service members to serve along side homosexual service members is asking them to compromise their convictions. Will you please elaborate?

  15. major dan davis stated that. but maybe because the church (irrelevant of color) thinks that all gays go to hell? not that i think that it’s right, but that’s what the bible thumpers think. and before anyone states something about how the church has adulterers in it and that no sin is greater than the other and blah blah blah, every human is a hypocrite. we gloss over and ignore some things, and not over others. it is what it is.

  16. I’ve been in the Military for 7 years now, and I can honestly say that America’s Army houses soem of the biggest homophobes, from the American public. With or without the DADT bill, Gays in the military, to include soldiers who are not gay but have gay personas, are still going to be harrassed and singled out. Grant it no one I’ve ever worked with will turn down a helping hand when it’s needed/offered. But soldiers today have a lot more down time then they did in the past. This war is in no way comparable to wars that we have fought in the past, for the simple fact that not many of us are actually walking around getting shot at. So soldiers spend a lot of time in close quarters with little to nothing to do to pass the time. So they fill dead air with taughting and trouble. And to have an openly gay soldier in close quarters with a tent filled wih bored homophobes is not good. We can preach acceptance all day and all night long, but the fact remains that people (soldiers) are going to act like asses when given the chance to do so…And these openly gay soldiers, no matter how proud they are will be in more danger coming from their own then they would be in danger from outside sources…

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