This week might mark the beginning of the end of the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but the rhetoric is sure to stay heated well beyond the time when we remove this discriminatory mark from American law.
Department of Defense directive 1304.26 states:
A person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter, and is not a bar to service entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct…Applicants for enlistment, appointment, or induction shall not be asked or required to reveal whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Applicants also will not be asked or required to reveal whether they have engaged in homosexual conduct…
On its face this seems innocuous enough. If you don’t tell your superiors, and they don’t ask you, then you can be gay and serve in the US Armed Forces.
…unless independent evidence is received indicating that an applicant engaged in such conduct or unless the applicant volunteers a statement that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect. [emphasis added]
See that last part? That part there? So if the soldier/airman/sailor/marine makes an offhand comment about the secret partner at home, there’s now grounds for separation from service.
This gets at the very core of what it is to be gay in America today. Being gay isn’t just about sexual attraction. Being gay is the whole spectrum of relationship experiences that everyone else has, but in our case the object of our affection is of the same gender as ourselves.
Today, on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Congressman Gohmert (R-TX) said:
“If someone has to be overt about their sexuality, whether it’s in a bunker where they’re confined under fire, then it’s a problem. And that’s what repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell does. It says, ‘I have to be overt, I don’t care. I want this to be a social experiment.”
I’d like to ask Mr Gohmert if he’s ever had a conversation with his colleagues where he talked about his wife. Has he featured his wife and three daughters in his campaigns for office? The answer to this question is obviously yes. He even proudly lists them in the biography section of his official website. Can you imagine the uproar from the media (on all sides) if he were acting as if his wife and kids didn’t exist? But that’s exactly what he would have some of our soldiers do.
This fight has less to do with allowing gays to serve in the US Armed Forces. They already do. I know this because 14,000 have been kicked out since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented, and there are sure to be at least that many still in the service under this oppressive law. This fight is about allowing them to serve openly. Allowing them to serve their country without having to change the pronoun of their loved one in workplace conversation. To be able to send letters home to their partner without having the make sure there’s nothing that would give them away. To be able to call their loved one from their deployed location and not be afraid to say “I Love You, Mark.” To be able to go to a restaurant on or off the military installation with their partner and not worry about someone seeing them holding hands.
My father served in the US Air Force for 27 years, rising to the rank of Colonel before retiring last summer. He served two deployments during the first Gulf War, and another during this most recent war in Iraq. I have been instilled with the idea that the most important virtue in military service (and life in general) is integrity. To be honest. And a lie of omission is still a lie.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell forces our soldiers to live dishonestly. Don’t believe me? Read their stories from the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network’s Blog.
And from Andrew Sullivan’s blog:
It’s time we put an end to this horrible policy.