Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ win for gay rights, but battle isn’t over yet
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 00:09
Sept. 20 marked the official repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that the military had used since 1993 to protect the anonymity of homosexuals who served in their ranks.
Most of you are too young to remember where this policy came from, so let me give you a brief overview.
Before 1993, if a serving member of the armed services was found to be homosexual they could be court-martialed, imprisoned, sent to a psychiatric hospital for testing or dishonorably discharged.
Up until 1993, the military attempted to screen out individuals by asking them directly during recruitment if they were gay. Of course, many people lied because their patriotic duty to serve their country was greater.
After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, Congress rushed a bill through that made it law, not just military policy, that gay personnel could not serve in the military, contrary to what Clinton had campaigned on.
So in December 1993, Clinton answered with a measure of his own. While he couldn't get the law repealed he could issue a directive as commander-in-chief that prohibited officers and recruiters from asking if a service person was gay and tied it to the appropriations bill that funded the military, among other governmental entities (sound familiar?).
The military could find ways around asking the question and the era of "conduct unbecoming" became a much broader used method of removing individuals.
I have a friend, Dan, who was serving in the Navy and is also gay. He never bragged about his sexuality nor did he do anything to warrant suspicion from his superiors.
He was dismissed after another enlisted man was found out to be gay and that man told Dan's superiors. Dan was discharged for any reason but being gay, but with no corrective actions on his record, his sexual orientation was the only concrete reason. Each branch has scores of stories such as Dan's, and exemplified in movies such as "G.I. Jane," staring Demi Moore.
But that's all over now ... or is it? The ban on homosexuals in the military has been lifted and now the men and women should be able to serve as openly as they care to. That is wonderful.
Homosexuals have been serving in military units since the dawn of war in disguise, and now they can show their own pride.
Sadly, however, their struggles are not over. The military will not recognize partners or even legal marriages when it comes to benefits a soldier receives for risking their lives to keep us safe. They get no housing allowance increase for their families, they will get no separation pay if deployed and none of the same life and medical insurances that straight couples would be entitled to.
Nonetheless, the repeal of the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military is a wonderful victory for those who previously had to hide.
This falls in line with other great victories over archaic military policies such as preventing women, blacks and immigrants from being allowed to defend the country they love against all enemies, foreign or domestic.
I know that while this battle may be over, the war is far from won. I wish you much luck and my most sincere congratulations on your victory, and thank you for your service.
Mandie is a junior majoring in secondary social science education. She is married with two children and serves on the Board of Directors of C.A.R.E.S. Suicide Prevention.