The Department of Defense has not handled Don't Ask, Don't Tell well.
In case you've been living under a rock, DADT is the official military policy on gays and lesbians in the military. Under federal law, gays are prohibited from openly disclosing their sexual orientation while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Make no mistake. Gays are definitely serving in the military right now. They just have to lie to everyone about a fundamental part of their lives to do it.
That's wrong. Even top brass in the military agree that DADT is wrong.
The House and Senate were poised to legislatively end DADT this year, but Secretary Gates asked them to give the Department of Defense time to study the issue. Now, I'm a huge fan of research, but I don't see why a mammoth study is necessary to do the right thing. I understand that issues will arise, but I don't necessarily think that they'll be quite as complicated as the DoD thinks.
As part of the DADT study, the DoD surveyed service members about their feelings. Yes, their feelings! It's almost as if the DoD seems to think that repealing DADT will result in gay pride parades on bases across the U.S. and soldiers sashaying across the battlefield. That gives the term “battle buddy” a whole new meaning, doesn't it? But seriously, it's not like military uniform regulations will be changed to allow pink feather boas and sparkly tiaras with BDUs. Nor will love pats on the rears of fellow service members or shower love play suddenly become OK. In actuality, nothing much about military culture is likely to change.
In an effort to make sure everyone has a chance to air their views, the DoD also surveyed military spouses about DADT and gays in the military. You read that right. They surveyed the spouses! Never before has the military consulted spouses about DoD policy in this manner and the questions were ridiculous, nearly equating being homosexual with having typhoid or leprosy. I'm just waiting for the survey of our pets' feelings on Sgt. Gus and his partner Bob being allowed to bring their poodle to the base dog park.
I'm part of a military family. Consequently I know a boat load of people who are actually in the military. ("Boat load" is a technical measurement term.) I know there are people out there opposed to ending DADT, but I've never actually encountered one of them in the wild, leading me to believe that service members aren't going to be lining up to stone people during the Ft. Bragg Gay Pride parade. (Something that exists only in my mind, but would be really, really cool.) If bigotry arises, the military simply won't tolerate it, in the same way it doesn't tolerate racism or sexual harassment. It's not like integration issues have never come up before. (Hint: blacks serving with whites, women on ships, women on submarines, etc.)
The long and short of it is that waiting for a DoD report to suggest how best to repeal DADT then arguing over how to do it and surveying everything ad nauseum is making the repeal of DADT more of an issue than it needs to be. Racism is wrong. Sexism is wrong. DADT is wrong. You don't study it, you end it. Period.
Now the administration has an easy way out. Yesterday, a federal district court ruled that DADT violates the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians and is detrimental to force readiness. (Read the full opinion here.)
The court also issued an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of DADT. If the administration chooses not to appeal the injunction, then the DoD's plans for a drawn out repeal become ... irrelevant.
Unfortunately, it looks like the administration might appeal the injunction to give the DoD time to complete its plans. That would be a huge mistake. I'm sure the administration knows about all the polls predicting the winds of political change come November. It's entirely likely that it won't be possible to legislatively repeal DADT after November. DADT is wrong and it violates the constitutional rights of our service members who happen to be gay. We need to end it now, not in a year or two or ten. Now.
Plus, I really want to see a gay pride parade at Ft. Bragg. I'll be wearing my feather boa in support!
Stephanie Himel-Nelson is a lawyer, a military family member and an advocate for military families. She blogs at Lawyer Mama and likes to pick on Ft. Bragg. Even though she doesn't live there.
Stephanie would also like to remind everyone that the opinions she expresses here are hers and hers alone. They are not representative of any organization with which she is affiliated and you shouldn't hold her sick sense of humor against anyone else!
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