By Jeff Kazmierski – Copy Editor
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the 17-year old military policy banning gays and lesbians from service, is on its way out.
Two weeks ago a federal judge ruled the policy unconstitutional and in her brief opinion ordered the services to stop enforcing it. While this ruling has little actual force, since the policy remains enshrined in law, it represents a huge leap forward in the fight for equality within the ranks. Within days of the ruling, service chiefs had ordered their respective branches to stop barring enlistment to and halt discharges of gay and lesbian recruits.
One of the recruits is a familiar face to those who have been following this issue. Lieutenant Dan Choi, the Arabic linguist who was discharged by the Army in 2009 for being gay, emerged from the recruiting station in Times Square to face a media circus. His application was accepted.
However, last week the effort to repeal this fatally flawed policy hit a roadblock. While the law has been (at least for now) declared unconstitutional, the Obama Justice Department filed for appeal. Last week, the Defense Department reversed an earlier decision to stop enforcing the policy and instead is now funneling all discharges under the policy to the various service chiefs. The policy has yet to be reviewed by a higher court.
The Pentagon’s decision, while legally correct, places the careers and futures of thousands of gay and lesbian servicemen and women in limbo. It is fairly certain that there will be no decision made before the mid-term elections in November.
It would be a mistake for any judge to overturn the ruling. In giving her opinion, California judge Virginia Phillips stated very clearly that the policy violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution and the First Amendment rights of service members. There is sound Constitutional law behind the ruling; overturning it will require an extremely well-crafted argument. So far, supporters of the ban have yet to provide one.
This is an issue of national security. Simply put, it makes no sense for our military services to be discharging loyal and capable men and women for trivial reasons during a time of war.
It’s also a fundamentally human issue. These people have been serving their country with dignity and honor. To remove them from duty simply because of their sexuality is immoral and unethical. As a veteran, I have friends who are still on active duty. Some of them have been deployed multiple times and most have families. Deployments cause great stress on family life. Children suffer for it; spouses become exhausted and demoralized. It gets worse when people are being sent on three, four or more deployments. If we’re not going to have a draft, at the very least we should not be turning away good and capable citizens at the door just because they’re gay. We need a bigger pool of personnel to relieve the stress on those serving.
Also, the American people overwhelmingly support repeal. Remember them? They’re the men and women of this country to whom politicians love to refer whenever they want to push through an agenda that does not, in fact, have any popular support. This issue does.
According to recent polling, a solid majority, 60 to 70 percent by some estimates, of Americans support removing the ban. Are we a democracy or not? If we are, then we must remove this undemocratic and un-American policy. Gays and lesbians benefit from the sacrifices our servicemen and -women make; the least we can do is allow them to contribute to those efforts.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its way out. It’s only a matter of time before the entire house of cards collapses and the services become truly integrated. It may not be this year, but as President Obama has said many times, it will be on his watch.