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It seems like we’ve been on a roll. A mere month after a U.S. District Court Judge struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional, District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in a case brought by Log Cabin Republicans that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) violates the Fifth and First Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Phillips will be issuing a Permanent Injunction to barring its enforcement.
However, it’s not yet over. All of us are still holding our breath to see if President Obama will do the right thing and refrain from appealing the ruling (as Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown did with Prop 8), and whether the ruling will be stayed. Meanwhile, LGBT groups, such as the Courage Campaign, are pressuring Senator Reid to keep his promise to repeal DADT before the November election.
I’ve been protesting our country’s fruitless militaristic adventures abroad since the days of Vietnam, and would try to talk anyone, gay or straight, out of joining the military. So why do I care about this issue?
Just like the official racism in the U.S. military that preceded it, the government sanctioned homophobia of DADT and its predecessor policies are unconscionable and have done untold harm to the lives and careers of gays and lesbians in the military, both during their service and after discharge. My first girlfriend suffered from Post-Traumatic Distress Disorder both from seeing combat in Vietnam (she was a medic) and from being caught up in anti-lesbian witch-hunt that pressured her to name names and left her with a less than honorable discharge that denied her benefits and impacted her future job prospects. Fast forward a couple of decades later, a group of lesbians in the Marines stationed at Parris Island were court-martialed and thrown into the brig for the “crime” of loving other women. That’s the military for you in a nutshell: medals for killing, and imprisonment for loving.
The passage of DADT in 1993 by the Clinton administration was supposed to make things a little better for gay servicemen and women, but it may have made things worse. Over 14,000 service members have been fired under the law. DADT works hand-in-glove with the pervading sexism and violent machismo in the military. “So you don’t want to put out for your male comrade-in-arms? You must be a dyke!” Thus, women have been disproportionately targeted by the policy: women make up a mere 15 percent of the military but account for more than 33% of those discharged under DADT. The statistics for the Air Force are even worse: of the 90 people discharged from the Air Force in 2008 under DADT, 56 were women.
As Judge Phillips pointed out in her decision, the military has no problems using gays and lesbians when necessary to fight its wars and then dumping us on the trash heap thereafter: “Defendants’ discharge of homosexual servicemembers pursuant to the Act not only declined precipitously since the United States began combat in Afghanistan in 2001, but Defendants also delay individual enforcement of the Act while a servicemember is deployed in a combat zone,” Judge Phillips wrote. So much for the presence of gays and lesbians harming so-called “military readiness!”
DADT not only “denies them the right to speak about their loved ones while serving their country in uniform” and discharges them “for writing a personal letter…to a person of the same sex with whom they shared an intimate relationship before entering military service” or for “sending private e-mail messages …to friends or family members, if those communications might lead the (unauthorized) reader to discern the writer’s sexual orientation.” It also has a “chilling effect” on the ability of gay and lesbian service members to report harassment, hazing, rape, or violence against them.
Sometimes the price of officially sanctioned homophobia is death. Not too long ago, in 2009, openly gay Seaman August Provost was murdered at Camp Pendleton after being a target of anti-gay harassment.
So as Judge Phillips recognized, the time has come to end DADT. And, according to surveys conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, seventy five percent of Americans agree.
Obama, are you listening? We want actions, not more promises or delays. And while you’re at it, how about bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan now?