On May 27, The New York Times reported that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to include an amendment in the annual Pentagon policy bill that would make it possible for the military to repeal a ban – popularly known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” – that prevented “out of the closet” homosexuals from serving in the military.
There are many opposed to this effort on the Republican side but some moderate to conservative Democrats, such as Rep. Ike Skelton, have opposed the repeal as well. Sen. John McCain has argued that this repeal would decrease military effectiveness and is pushing for a filibuster to fight what he has labeled “a political agenda.” Rep. Michelle Bachmann has argued that the current policy works because “people with same-sex attraction are allowed to serve in the military. It’s just a matter of not making that a vocal issue.”
All of this rhetoric makes me wonder how you can argue against repealing a policy that allows gays to serve in the military as long as they remain “in the closet” by suggesting that having gays in the military decreases effectiveness? And what sense does it make to discharge soldiers who served their country bravely simply because they decided to stop hiding their sexual identity?
The logic of McCain and Bachmann is inconsistent when you move beyond the rhetoric to the substance of their arguments. On the one hand, they support keeping “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allows gays in the military as long as they are furtive about their identity. On the other hand, they oppose repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it will allow homosexuals already in the military to openly admit their sexual orientation, which they believe will undermine group cohesion.
Let’s review the logic.
· “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should remain in place because it doesn’t discriminate against homosexuals and allows them to serve their country as long as they don’t share their sexual orientation with anyone (Bachmann).
· “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should remain in place because removing this policy would allow homosexual soldiers to openly express their sexuality, which would undermine the effectiveness of the military (McCain).
Apparently being open and honest about one’s sexuality undermines the military, but being secretive about one’s sexuality does not undermine the military. Anyone else notice the problem with this reasoning?
What is more astounding is that many of the military personnel who have been discharged because they revealed their sexual orientation have been highly esteemed individuals. Men such as Bleu Copas (a decorated Army sergeant) and women such as Margaret Witt (a decorated Air Force major) were both discharged for admitting they were homosexuals.
Servicemen and women like Copas and Witt expose the flawed logic of those opposed to repealing this policy. Decorated military personnel – men and women honored, celebrated and revered for their excellence in service – are suddenly deemed unfit for no other reason than admitting their sexual identity. Even though sexual orientation didn’t prevent Copas, Witt and others from performing their duty better than many of their colleagues, “don’t ask, don’t tell” allows it to be the basis for dismissal.
Could this policy be any more appalling, disturbing or unjust? Could anything do more to undermine the arguments of people like McCain who believe the repeal will make the military less effective?
Who would find it acceptable to tell a woman or a man that as long as they hide their gender they can serve in the military? Would anyone think it acceptable to tell someone they can serve in the military as long as they don’t reveal their religious beliefs? Would anyone think it acceptable to tell someone they can serve in the military as long as they conceal their race or nationality?
Is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy any less offensive or unjust? Is it any less appalling to ask someone to hide such an important aspect of their personal identity?
I only hope and pray that it won’t take as long for our leaders and our nation to recognize the injustice and immorality of such discriminatory and demeaning actions toward those of a certain sexual orientation as it has for us to recognize such negative behaviors toward other minority groups.