Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

“In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?” asked Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, Sunday on “Meet the Press”.

 This is why.

Homosexual and bisexual Americans are serving in the US military, just as they always have and always will.  Some have been and will be killing; others have been and will be killed. And all who bear the burden of our defense, pay a price for the bearing.

 This also is why.

Fifty years ago, African Americans realized that when too many whites spoke of racial justice, Later really meant Never and Slowly really meant the same. Women have known this for centuries. So have other groups seeking inclusion and equality.

But as the legal principle says, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The last time the ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual troops serving came up, back during the Clinton years, it was in peacetime, and that, too, was a bad time to allow homosexual and bisexual Americans to openly serve their country.  The military was under too much stress because the Cold War had ended and downsizing trumped justice. Nor could service members speak for themselves and remain in the military. Nor can they now.

That also is why We the People must have this debate.

Upholding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violates everything the military stands for.  It violates the Constitution, which every service member swears to support and defend.  The Fourteenth Amendment applies regardless of sexual orientation, as does the First Amendment.  If it is not prejudicial to good order and discipline for heterosexuals to marry, to wear wedding rings, to talk about who they spent time with on the weekend, or the date they’re excited about, then it isn’t for bisexual or homosexual people, either. 

Further, it violates the cardinal military virtue of loyalty, most particularly loyalty down from the services’ senior leadership to the men and women, particularly enlisted, who are serving their country at tremendous personal cost.

It violates the principle of integrity because the military knows that sexual orientation does not affect individuals’ ability to serve bravely and honorably and in effect elevates the emotions of those who dislike them over their real contributions to the common defense.

It violates the principle of cohesion because DADT says some Americans may be deformed and tortured—for that is what the closet does to people—for the pleasure of the sadistic and bigoted or because of the indifference of the thoughtless and cowardly.

And DADT violates the two values that are absolutely essential to any military that is a military, rather than a band of armed thugs:  courage and discipline.  The courage to put aside your personal whatevers and say, simply, These people are American citizens and human beings, entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of any other human being who is an American citizen.  And the discipline to decide that If I can’t deal with that, then I should not be in my nation’s military.

For the military’s institutional leadership to continue to refuse to urgently petition Congress to immediately end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow openly homosexual and bisexual troops to serve with all the rights and benefits—including for their spouses—of heterosexual troops is to forsake the troops under their command. It is also to engage in conduct unbecoming of officers and gentlemen.  Like their refusal to petition Congress to end all restrictions upon servicewomen, the leadership’s refusal to petition to end DADT is to engage in behavior of enormous personal and institutional dishonor and cowardice that violates one of the core reasons the US military exists.

For the bearing of arms in the common defense—which includes, but is hardly limited to, federal military service—is one of the core rights and obligations of the citizen.  And the United States has, almost from its inception, which nearly foundered upon the issue of slavery, been engaged in eliminating all traces of second class citizenship.

That’s why.


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