The Progressive Fix

It’s Time to Repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

A few events over the last few weeks continue to highlight the importance of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a policy the Obama administration is on the verge of repealing – that is, provided members of his Senate caucus don’t flip out before Tuesday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee is set to vote on the measure in the defense authorization bill and move it to a full Senate vote.  The swing votes in committee may be Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Rs-ME), who have said they’re unsure how they’ll vote.

DADT was always meant as a transitional policy from the Clinton era, born out of a fight the 42nd president picked (and essentially lost) with the military brass.  It’s time to move our military into the 21st century — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has endorsed its end, as has Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.  So has Colin Powell.

I worked for the Pentagon for about five years, and I know and worked with homosexual members of the armed forces.  Their orientation never affected their ability to serve, or their subordinates’ ability to respect them.  Countries including Britain, Denmark, and Israel have all realized that being gay and being in the military is a simply a non-issue.

Last week, Jonathan Hopkins, an Army captain honorably discharged this August for being gay, had this to say in the NYT following his forced separation from the military services:

In my case, after the military learned from others that I was gay, I served for 14 more months during investigations and administrative actions to discharge me. Everyone knew, so, essentially, I lived for more than a year in a post-D.A.D.T. work environment.

Amid all of that, the unit continued to function and I continued to be respected for the work I did. Many, from both companies I commanded, approached me to say that they didn’t care if I was gay — they thought I was one of the best commanders they’d ever had. And unbeknownst to me, many had guessed I was probably gay all along. Most didn’t care about my sexuality. I was accepted by most of them, as was my boyfriend, and I had never been happier in the military. Nothing collapsed, no one stopped talking to me, the Earth spun on its axis, and the unit prepared to fight another day.

John Nagl, president of the bipartisan CNAS, commented on Hopkins, his former charge, in Defense News:

Jonathan is the third combat veteran I personally know who has left the Army under the terms of DADT. Collectively, they represent almost a decade of combat experience, a big handful of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, service as aide-de-camps to general officers and as platoon leaders and company     commanders in combat, and the investment of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. They have offered blood, sweat, and tears in defense of a nation that discriminates against them for no good reason.

This policy must end.

The cause has even received the attention of Lady Gaga, heretofore known as the spokeswoman of our times, who called for an end DADT at a rally in Collins’ Maine. She’s the most followed person on Twitter, and if she can motivate a few fans to show up, Tweet, and call the Senator, it might just make a difference

The House has already voted to repeal this highly discriminatory policy, and the Senate hangs in the balance.  If the issue is left to the next Congress, there’s no telling if a more conservative Senate would ever get around to it, which is why tomorrow’s vote is crucial. With the rise of the Tea Party and general rightward slant of the conservative movement today, it’s little wonder that Senator Collins is gun-shy about reiterating her support of a DADT repeal.  One hopes she musters the courage to do what’s right.

Photo credit: Enrico Fuente

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