Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't ask some black folk to be consistent. Don't tell them equality covers anyone but themselves.

UPDATE, Christmas Eve 2010: Since President Obama signed the bill repealing DADT earlier this week, it's been pretty quiet on the objection front. I assume it's because people in black churches everywhere are getting ready to welcome black LGBT folk with open arms this Sunday.

I usually make my comments on Don't Ask, Don't Tell elsewhere, because elsewhere is where I encounter most of the jarring statements, inconsistencies and cognitive dissonance. Some black folk, though they know discrimination first-hand and are quick to point it out, will gladly, smugly, gleefully continue discrimination against others-- now it's gays in the military, next time it will be someone else if we don't learn from our own history.

It's weird to have to argue that DADT was a mistake that should not have been enacted as military policy in the first place. The arguments in favor of it, never that strong in the face of military reality since the 1980s, have been overturned, most recently by a survey of people actually on active duty. But argue we must.

When DADT was enacted I was on active duty. Deep down, I knew from the outset it was wrong in concept, hard to comply with, and hard to enforce, but it was what we called a lawful order or regulation . It seemed a way to move on an issue that needed to be dealt with, or if you prefer, "dealt with." The late Reagan and early Bush years brought a heightened awareness of gay presence in the military to the ostensibly straight majority. More women filled non-traditional positions in the 1980s and that brought (inevitable?) accusations against them. The AIDS scourge, little understood at the time, made every male who got mysteriously ill a suspect. Sexual orientation was not a constant front-burner topic but somehow it got enough public attention to warrant action at the highest levels-- hence, DADT.

I should not claim I was born with a view of non-discrimination towards gays or the rest of the LGBT community, or was brought up with it, or entered the military with it. In my childhood, it was all about racial and religious equality in our household. (To my recollection, gender equality was never a topic. We pretended my dad was in charge.) Sexual orientation was never discussed directly.

In my case it took actual service with people who were obviously leading closeted lives. (They were doing so before, but my blinders are pretty darn good.) There was no epiphany, no singular event. But there was a point at which I realized I would never turn anyone in for being gay even if I knew it (as opposed to wondering, suspecting, or some other indefinite state). This point was a bit before DADT, so by the time the policy came into being my attitude had already hardened in favor of just leaving people alone.

DADT doesn't leave people alone. It's past time to get rid of it.

House approves repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

The 250-175 vote is aimed at putting new pressure on the Senate to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military.

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau
December 15, 2010, 2:31 p.m.

Reporting from Washington — After stumbling last week, the effort to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military received a boost Wednesday, as the House approved a measure repealing the policy in an effort to force the Senate to do the same before lawmakers go home for the holidays.

The House vote on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- essentially a repeat of a similar vote in May -- puts fresh pressure on the Senate leaders to prioritize the repeal as they struggle to schedule votes on a handful of last-chance priorities for Democrats.

The final tally was 250 to 175, mostly along party lines.

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