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That said, it is sad and telling that the DREAM Act failed on the same day DADT repealed.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.