RIP DADT 1993-2011 – You Won’t Be Missed

Sep 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

“Today marks the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

- Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, et al

In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed the law repealing DADT. Today it is reality. After 17 years, DADT is history.

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DADT – Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – will not be remembered fondly by anyone but bigots. Obviously, people like Bob Maginnis and others at the Family Research Council will miss it. Maginnis claimed back in December that a half-million servicemen and women would quit if DADT was repealed. He also said repealing it made America “no better than Sodom and Gomorrah.” According to Maginnis, continuing a long tradition of fundamentalist Christian anal fixation, Obama “sodomized” the military!

And that’s not all. As Right Wing Watch reported at the time,

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver demanded that the House GOP “defund any implementation of this law” and states pass laws banning gays from serving openly in their state’s National Guard, and Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily called for service members to leave over the policy and “let the politicians cobble together a military of social deviants if they think they can.”

Virginia Republican legislator Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) claimed repeal of DADT would bring about a reinstitution of the draft. Worse, Republicans threatened to scuttle the START treaty if DADT was approved. In other words, a childish “if we can persecute gays and lesbians, we’re going to put as all at increased risk by nuclear annihilation.” Kind of a home-made Sodom and Gomorrah scenario.

As might be expected, it did not go quietly into the night. House Republicans Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) of the House Armed Services Committee wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seeking to delay implementation:

“Since it is evident that the department does not have final, approved policies in place, we believe it is essential that you take immediate action to delay the implementation of repeal until such time that the review and comment period is completed, that DOD has incorporated the changes suggested during the comment period and that the appropriate regulations needed to implement repeal have been distributed to and are understood by the leaders and key personnel in the field.”

In a letter sent to soldiers yesterday, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odiermo wrote,

Today marks the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.

For over 236 years, the U.S. Army has been an extraordinary force for good in the world. Our Soldiers are the most agile, adaptable and capable warriors in history — and we are ready for this change…

Accordingly, we expect all personnel to follow our Values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance. It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect, while maintaining good order and discipline throughout our ranks. Doing so, will help the U.S. Army remain the Strength of the Nation.

According to Equality Florida,

Since the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993, approximately 14,000 American soldiers’ lives have been turned up-side-down as they were removed from serving their country simply for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Tens of thousands more were forced to live a lie just to keep their jobs.

And they fought and died for their country just like their heterosexual counterparts. Just as they have throughout history.

But let’s not become complacent. As Human Rights Campaign points out, ridding ourselves of DADT does not grant equality to gay and lesbian military personnel:

The irony of McKeon and Wilson’s inquiry into benefit changes is that, unfortunately, gay and lesbian service members still will lack access to a wide array of benefits available to straight service members and their loved ones. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the military from extending a number of benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian service members, such as health insurance benefits. Other limitations include regulations related to military family housing, access to legal services, spousal relocation support and an adequate infrastructure to process incidents of discrimination and harassment against gay and lesbian service members.

The fight is not over, of course, not as long as Christian fundamentalism has any clout at all.  Fundamentalists fought tooth and nail to stop repeal of DADT. As recently as this month the Family Research Council has encouraged servicemen and women to express their opposition to the gay troops in their midst for “flaunting their sexuality”. They came out in support of a bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to protect the free speech of soldiers to openly condemn their comrades for being different from them. Fundamentalism doesn’t like to lose and it never loses gracefully, as history has demonstrated again and again.

As of this morning, America’s defenses have not collapses and the U.S. Army has not resigned en masse. God has not struck us down in a fiery recreation of Sodom and Gomorrah and none of those things are likely to happen tomorrow, or the day after. The only difference between today and yesterday is that today, more people are free of persecution; more people are having their constitutional rights to equality before the law enforced. And America is a better place for it, and a stronger place.

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