Serving with Pride

It is currently US Law to prohibit gay and lesbian citizens from serving in the US military. This law passed during the Clinton years by a Republican controlled Congress gives the military the right to discharge anyone they feel is gay or lesbian. The famous “don’t ask, don’t tell” presidential directive was suppose to offer a pragmatic solution by simply instructing the chain of command to not seek out gays and lesbians, and then discharge them. The military could discharge someone if the soldier openly displayed homosexual mannerisms or declared in public their sexual orientation. Despite this, gays and lesbians have and continue to serve in large numbers.   Most serve with pride and distinction.

President Obama has asked Congress to repeal the law and has the Department of Defense to prepare for no restrictions tied to a person’s sexual orientation. Most reports indicate that repeal would represents a “non-event” to service men and women. Their generation has grown up with positive gay and lesbian images and no amount of misinformation will fool them. For some senior officers it may be a slightly different matter since they are from a different generation.

Congressional posturing is another matter. The usual suspects who seek to cast anything the Obama Administration proposes in a poor light see red meat. Others less strident, however, hale from conservative districts and fear (or may even really feel) a religious based moral indignation about gay and lesbian life styles. These same individuals who on other days sing from the Constitution are now quite willing to support discrimination.

The numbers are simple. There are more straight votes than gay and lesbian votes.  So if you live in a very conservative district numbers count.  Hardly principled but easy to understand.

The gay and lesbian community has placed a lot of importance on this issue. For Democrats there is an implied “you owe us this one” for gay and lesbian support for President Obama. I wonder whether all parties can see beyond that.

There is about 11% of all Americans who are gay or lesbian. This is not a learned behavior, it is genetic and totally natural for those who are gay or lesbian. While there has been much progress in eliminating or minimizing discrimination in the general society, the military remains special. Opponents claim that “unit cohesion” will be hurt and as a result, unit effectiveness will decrease. Over the next months this will be argued in Congress and most likely, the law will be repealed.

The question I have is whether gays and lesbians will see this as part of a broader set of human rights issues or just a narrow case of discrimination. Will gays and lesbians turn their support to health care for all, or compassionate immigration and guest worker regulations, or the right of all women to decide on their own reproductive health?

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2 Comments on “Serving with Pride”

  1. Relentless Says:

    Broader set of human rights.
    Of course, homophobes have the advantage, even though they’re in the minority. It’s much easier to rally people for what they’re against than what they’re for.


  2. Relentless, this is often the case but I suspect that gays and lesbians might just have a streak of “just me” and forget about all the other human rights issues that lay out there…


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