Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Heads to Obama

So, the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" regarding the service of gays in the American military passed a Senate vote today and is headed to President Obama's desk for a signature.
I've always been a believer in the idea that we ought to respect any person's desire to serve their country, particularly when a person is willing to put their life in harm's way to do so, and that we should respect that willingness regardless of their sexual orientation.
The only coherent argument that I've heard that might mitigate against this decision would be one regarding potentially diminished cohesion and effectiveness amongst units with openly gay soldiers, but most of the things that I've read about the militaries of other countries (many of which have been allowing gays to openly serve for decades already) seems to indicate that the presence of openly gay service members has never created any substantial sort of problem or disruption. So if the effectiveness of the military isn't going to be compromised and if openly gay people are willing to serve, I think the question comes down to a basic human rights policy.
I heard a story on NPR about this issue a few weeks ago, and they had carried out a few polls among U.S. servicemen regarding how they felt about the whole thing. I don't remember the exact results, but I remember that there was a striking difference between soldiers and military leaders of the older generation versus soldiers in the younger one. Large numbers of older service members were against a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but many younger members of the armed forces just didn't really seem to see the service of openly gay individuals as a big deal. The younger members (in their 20's and younger, I think) of the Air Force, Navy, and Army all had a majority of people who didn't oppose a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Marine Corps still had a majority of younger soldiers who opposed a repeal of the law, but if memory serves, the majority that opposed the repeal wasn't all that large (not as big as I had expected, anyway, given the fact that I tend to think of the Marine Corps as a very conservative, old school branch of the service). I guess I just mention this because I think that as the older generation retires, the issue of gays serving in the military just isn't going to be so controversial among the next generation, anyway.
In the end I guess I mostly just wish that the whole thing just wasn't really an issue at all, and I hope that if and when a transition on this issue arrives, that things go smoothly. I'm sure that we have a significant number of gay individuals serving honorably in our military already, and I think it's a shame that we're asking them to remain secretive and/or dishonest about who they are.
Hats off to all of our service members and veterans, regardless of race, religion, and sexual orientation.

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