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IAFC Bloggers On "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Repeal

Monday, December 20, 2010 - 06:00 AM

The Senate has agreed to do away with the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning openly gay troops from serving in the military. We asked the roster of It's A Free Country contributors to share some brief thoughts on the ruling.

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal." Read more of his posts here.

The long-overdue repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is a step toward greater respect and equality for all Americans and a move that will strengthen our armed forces.  While the historical march toward equal rights has many more obstacles, this is an unqualified victory. It's frustrating that so many Republicans continued to do exactly what they said they wouldn't: obstruct the advice of military leaders who had said it was time for this policy to end. Sadly, it's not that surprising...but it is refreshing to see an increasing number of conservatives joining in this historic moment.

Our country is recognizing that legislated homophobia has to become a thing of the past. Our fellow Americans know and embrace their gay neighbors and family members.  Our political leadership has needs to catch up. In my view, there are more important civil rights -- in the workplace and in the home -- that we all still need to fight for, but equality in the military will make this road easier as it shows all Americans we've entered a new era.

That said, it is sad and telling that the DREAM Act failed on the same day DADT repealed. Had it passed, it would have sent the same signal to America that we're turning a corner on immigration policy. Unfortunately, while enough conservatives learned that anti-gay actions are a losing strategy, the same isn't true for anti-immigrant stances. On that fight, we have more work to do.

Jami Floyd is a broadcast journalist and legal analyst for cable and network news, and is a frequent contributor to WNYC Radio. She is former advisor in the Clinton administration and served as a surrogate for the Obama campaign on legal and domestic policy issues. The below is excerpted from a longer piece she wrote in October about her days within the Clinton administration, working on "don't ask, don't tell." Read more of her posts here.

I specifically remember the meetings related to gays in the military like they were yesterday. Unlike most other policy briefings (the Crime Bill, for example, or Welfare Reform, which were gatherings in large conference rooms, filled to capacity), these were very small, high-level meetings—twenty people, no more. At the head of the table: then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell.

In those early meetings, I asked, “Why?”  Respectfully, but pointedly, I suggested that the ban on gay service members was akin to the segregation of African Americans during World War II—unrelated to military service, not rooted in any sound public policy and a violation of due process. It was an argument I thought General Powell would find persuasive. He did not.

President Clinton had come to office with a promise to end the ban on gays in the military. After Clinton won the presidency, however, Congress rushed to enact the existing ban into federal law, outflanking Clinton's planned repeal effort. We introduced congressional legislation to overturn the ban, but it encountered intense resistance by the Joint Chiefs, members of Congress, and some sectors of the public.

Therefore, DADT was a compromise—a weak effort to find some middle ground. As a young lawyer, I believed this political compromise, however well-meaning, to be constitutionally flawed. I said so in my briefs and at other opportunities. But as I would soon learn in Washington, political strategy often trumps the rule of law.

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter. Read more of her posts here.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a ridiculous policy at its inception and had to go. People, especially young people, forget that DADT began as a pro-gay measure, a compromise of Clintonian proportions. It made no sense then and it makes no sense today to have our servicemen and women cover up a gigantic secret during their service to their country.

The opponents to ending DADT say that it might impact troop morale or that we risk annoying Islamic, anti-gay countries. On the first point I trust our soldiers to serve with honor and to follow orders and accept gay people in their unit. It was, after all, once said that women in the military would be bad for morale too.

On the second point, it isn't the American way to cower to backward cultures wanting to impose their outdated morals on us. We don't stone midriff-baring, twice divorced Britney Spears and we accept that gay people are our equals. If we behave according to Islamist demands serving in the military will be the least of gay people's problems.

The last few Congressional votes, such as on the tax bill, produced political conversation focused only on which side won the day. Obama won because he showed he could compromise. Republicans won because they got an extension of the tax cuts. Whichever you believe there is a palpable feeling that America lost while our politicians took credit for winning. But on DADT, we all won. No longer will someone's love life get them ejected from the military they wish to serve. If only the rest of the issues were so obvious.

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Comments [8]

Henry from Long Island, NY

I served in the Navy aboard a submarine during the Vitnam War era. It was tight quarters and we had a couple of gay crew members. Nobody cared, everybody did their job, and life went on. When we were in the Med for an extended period of time, two of the gay guys took their leave (time off) together and went to Paris for a week. The rest of us just wished them well.

Dec. 26 2010 10:12 AM
Margaret from Manhattan

(To those in the services who have a problem with gays being present)
Homosexuals have been among you all along, without you knowing it. How does it change peoples' behavior, that the information is open? Your attitude/sensibility/worry is the problem, not the fact of someone being who they are, and were to begin with, with no behavior on their part an issue. You have the right to your opinion, or religious concept; but not to act against someone, or harass them. A Congressman quoted, "...hundreds have said they won't re-enlist." How does someone else being who they are prevent you from doing your job? That your animus keeps you from focusing, because of awareness of the information, even though the same people have been working alongside you all along anyway?

Dec. 22 2010 03:56 PM
Ken

I think there will be a bit of a transitional period to deal with, but overall this is a great step forward. I am not gay. I support gay rights...blah blah...but honestly I am indifferent to the whole sexual orientation thing because I honestly just don't really care. But anyone that is willing to die for our country should be given that right.

I think moving forward, the media has a responsibility to not over-hype this. Let the military do its thing. It doesn't need a bunch of story hungry media maggots getting in the way of what the military does.

By over-hyping it, it will only provoke polarization on either side of the issue. Honestly now that it is a done deal. Let's shut up and move on.

Just a thought .

Dec. 21 2010 10:55 AM
Harrison Bergeron from NJ metro NYC

I am not gay. I have never fought along side gay soldiers in combat. Therefore, I am not qualified to have an opinion on this. I suggest that most of the characters in congress are in the same position.

Having said that: honesty is generally good in the long run; while having to hide part of one's life from people who one must otherwise trust must be painfull.
My only observation, is that the decision might be best left to the fighting men and women -- especially those in the life and death combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would like to hear the opinions of gay soldiers and of straight soldiers who have colleagues who are gay. Those from this war but also those from Gulf War 1, Viet Nam, Korea, WW2. They must always have been out there.

Dec. 21 2010 09:09 AM
potobac from Soho

I have never seen convincing evidence homosexuals are more moral than heterosexuals. There is now an appalling situation in which male superiors are taking sexual advantage of female military people. Does anyone think this will be duplicated by homosexual males toward heterosexual underlings? Or is it just that no one cares?

Dec. 20 2010 12:03 PM
bywhatright from chicago

Not to rain on anyone's parade or anything, but repeal of DADT (10 USC 654) merely eliminates the ability to administra­tively dismiss homosexual­s from the service for BEING a homosexual­. Homosexual CONDUCT in the military is still prohibited by federal law (10 USC 925). So, for those coming out in the military, they may celebrate diversity and . . . their celibacy.

Dec. 20 2010 11:25 AM
George from Jackson Heights

Gay man here. The repeal of DADT is one more blow to the Federal restriction of civil rights for the gay community. My hope is that this will push forward to Federal recognition of same gender marriage. My foreign born "husband" is here on a work permit and I want to be able to sponser him for permanet residency which requires Federal recognition of marriage. Other than that I do not see why members of my community want to have a weapon strapped on them so they can kill others. Its kind of disgusting, in my view.

Dec. 20 2010 10:15 AM
steve from NY, NY

Simply put: Open military service today... full equal rights including same-sex marriage tomorrow.

I consider myself a lefty/progressive populist in good standing who is both anti-War and anti-American Imperialism, somebody who is 90% in agreement with Chalmers Johnson and the American Empire Project.

Over the years some of my fellow travelers (lol) have objected to the left taking up the cause of the repeal of don't ask don't tell, viewing this more as a pro-militaristic "equal wrongs" then "equal rights."

However, regardless of one’s views on the military-industrial complex, fortress America, and our imperialist role with bases in hundreds of countries all over the world, the fact is (whether it should be the case or not; alas) that historically open and acknowledged military service is the route by which oppressed minorities eventually gain full and equal legal, civil and social rights in America.

The fact is that was important at the time for abolition and (albeit briefly) reconstruction that African-Americans served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

It has been an important path to respect, lessening of social discrimination and equality for every immigrant group throughout American history, from Germans and Irish during the Revolution and War of 1812; to Jews, Italians and other southern and eastern Europeans in World War I and II; and again for African-Americans and the civil rights movement coming out of World War II and Korea.

Military service today... full equal rights including same-sex marriage tomorrow.
That is the real reason why it has been fought for, for so long (regardless of one's views about the military and American militarism and the military-industrial complex per se)... and by the way, this is the real reason why they are against it.

Dec. 20 2010 10:14 AM

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