History in the Making

Today, history has been made. The United States Senate defeated a filibuster led by John McCain (R-AZ) and went on to vote 65-31 in favor of repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly. The House of Representatives had already voted 250-175 in favor of repeal earlier this week. It is important to point out that when the repeal was originally defeated, Democrats had tacked the DREAM Act onto the bill containing the repeal of the policy, prompting every single Republican and Independent and many Democrats to vote against it. The bill approved today was a solo act, completely unadulterated, not tacked onto anything.

Scott Brown (R-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kirk (R-IL), George Voinovich (R-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Ensign (R-NV) and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) were the Republicans voting in favor of the repeal. It was originally enacted in 1993 by Democrat president Bill Clinton, who had previously vowed to end the outright ban on all gay and lesbian candidates joining the military. Over the past 17 years, tens of thousands of capable soldiers have been discharged from all four branches of the military.

Yet to come are the signing of the bill by President Obama, certification before Congress of the Pentagon report released earlier this month on the effect of lifting the ban, and a 60-day wait period before any changes are allowed to take effect. It will be a little while before we can actually start serving, but we’re on the final track to making this discriminatory policy a thing of the past.

So raise a glass, folks. History has been made today and we’re a part of it!

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13 thoughts on “History in the Making

  1. I’m confused on this, I have to admit. Was DADT repealed, or was the military law changed?

    I’m all for any red-blooded American who wants to being allowed to serve, but without the requisite law change, repealing DADT doesn’t make that possible. In fact, it makes it worse.

    I’ve been otherwise occupied the last few days, so I’m just starting to check on this now, but everything I’ve read has been “DADT Repealed”. Which, without the law change, I wouldn’t say is a good thing.

  2. I was surprised and cautiously happy about this. But there is still the danger that they’ll implement the law and required rules/regs to effectively still discriminate. AFW would know better about military rules and regs and how hard it will be to get them in line with this reality. I wonder what it will mean for recently discharged personnel?
    AndyB, NH.

  3. AFW, I’d hoped you would chime in on this. Good point. If the bill only repeals DADT and doesn’t spell out changes then I imagine it will go back to what it was like before DADT. I remember a bill that was supposed to prevent insurance companies from no covering people injured as a result of a motorcycle accident or other hazardous activities (horse riding etc). The bill passed but left up to the bureaucrats writing the regs it actually did just the opposite!
    Also wondering how issues regarding spouses will go? If they don’t allow or acknowledge same sex marriage (they being the military), they will be no on base housing, medical benefits etc. I think you’d said it some time ago, boyfriends and girlfriends don’t get the same as a legally recognized spouse (okay, you probably said it better with fewer words but I’ve been making short stories long since I could talk!).
    I’m hoping they do it right. At least it was a standalone bill and not tacked on with every kitchen sink in the place as is often the case.
    Thanks, AndyB, NH.

  4. Considering that I tend to look at this type of legislation, and anything sponsored by the White House in the past twenty months, with a jaundiced eye; I am cautious.
    Frankly, its ambiguity, smacks of the WH campaign mode.
    However, repeal of or enactment of may be a further ambiguity. I’ve never been contradicted when I referred to DADT as an Executive Order by Clinton.
    I may be in error.
    Whatever the case, anticipate that sooner or later we’ll be reading about the “Certification” issues: cleareance of the details through reguations.
    Anticipate some push-back, especially when some sensitivity trainer complains about a twenty five year ‘field-first-sergeant’ who doesn’t jump when told to show empathy.
    The social science gurus will make a mint on this one.
    One irony; Baron von Steuban, who was known for his homosexual ‘proclivities’, in addition to rigorously forming the army at Valley Forge, wrote the “Blue Book” the manual that is still employed and a point of reference today.
    And, in the Sixties, Senator Barry Goldwater, MG USAFR, was asked about this matter and said, “As long as they can shoot, what’s the issue?”.
    There was a team ‘Life Quality’ or ‘Quality of Life’ that was inititiated in the Pentagon to be convened of senior NCOs in 67-68 to review the issue. When it came up in a minnie corner of the budget, guess who rose in uproar – the greatly lauded liberals O’Niell, Kennedy and, I think Church or Hart.
    Frankly, like the “Dream Act”, I look at this as Obama playing to the locals – and who gets things passed for him to take credit; Coongress and Repubican senators.

  5. The military sites I read, and the news sites, all phrase this as open homosexuals now being allowed to serve. Which is fine by me. But I can’t find what it actually addresses – DADT, or the military regulations, explicitly stated anywhere.

    I’ll go with cautious optimism.

    The results – as AndyB states – remain to be seen in the areas of benefits. Girl/boyfriends most certainly do NOT have the same access, and when you’re a part of a military family, those are not just benefits, they are necessities.

    I don’t want to be a party pooper in any form of the word, I also do not want to cheer about something that hasn’t been explained to me at all. 99% of the things I read, by people who should know better, has always referred to the repeal of DADT, while DADT was not the problem but the first attempt at a solution to the problem. The sloppiness of the shorthand is a real sticking point for me, as so many people pick up the bumper sticker slogan and don’t look any further. Repealing DADT has really never been the optimum case – changing the rules that affect the sexual activities of service members has. Those are two entirely different issues.

    I hope that the rules were changed and that the use of “repealing DADT” is just continuing the use of sloppy shorthand by the power structure.

  6. AndyB – Shawmut knows more about this than anyone I know. I don’t have the brainpower to study the issue the way he has.

    Whatever he says on DADT, you can pretty much take to the bank.

  7. Also, by “those who should know better”, I totally don’t mean Mel.

    I specifically mean the lawmakers and activists with a legal background that apparently don’t read the laws they are supposed to be making/repealing/agitating for a change in. Considering how much money these people make, and how much education they supposedly have, you’d think they could speak about something intelligently and on point.

    Apparently not.

  8. I haven’t read the entire bill, but whether it will change the UCMJ is a very good question – one that I hadn’t thought of. What exactly does the UCMJ say about homosexual behavior, and how did DADT affect it?

    Shawmut brings up a very good point about sensitivity training. I don’t see why that should be necessary. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have sensitivity training when the races were integrated, and that worked out just fine. To me that sort of thing ranks right up there with the “stress cards” that soldiers were told to carry in basic for a time…if they felt they were being pushed too hard, all they had to do was whip out that stress card and the drill sergeants would have to back off. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

  9. Here’s what SLDN has to say about the regulation issue:

    EXECUTIVE ORDER BY THE PRESIDENT:

    • Merely repealing DADT won’t ensure that lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members can serve free of discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Policies and regulations would need to be written and put in place. SLDN will encourage the President to issue an executive order protecting service members from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    o This gives the President the opportunity to show strong leadership by adding non-discrimination of sexual orientation to the uniform side of the military via Executive Order.

    o EO 9981 (1948) issued by President Harry Truman prohibited discrimination in the armed services on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.

    o EO 11478 (1969) prohibited discrimination in employment within the federal government based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or age. It applied to all civilian employees, including those in the Defense Department.

    o EO 13087 (1998) issued by President Bill Clinton added sexual orientation in federal employment guidelines has been successful and set a durable precedent. OPM issued a guidance booklet in 1999, http://www.opm.gov/er/orientation.htm.

  10. As I understand the UCMJ it is illegal to engage in homosexual sex acts if you are in the service. But, Lawrence vs. Texas made consensual sex of all kinds involving consenting adults legal. So, does Lawrence vs. Texas trump the UCMJ assuming the UCMJ criminilizes consenual gay/lesbian sex?

    Let’s assume you can be openly gay and serve under this new law and all the military rules and regulations line up to support it. If that happens then:

    Do you really think we are going to see a rush of gay/lesbian military personnel coming out of the closet? Homophobia in the military won’t vanish because of this law.

    It will be interesting to see how this progresses. I am happy things have changed with this step in the right direction.

  11. John – I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say definitively on the trump question. However, I do believe that it has been recognized that the military as an institution has to hold to different standards than the civilian population in its rules. Thus rulings like Lawrence v Texas does not trump the UCMJ.

    Also, a lot is made in many quarters of the homophobia in the military. I can honestly say that, while it definitely exists, it doesn’t exist in a greater concentration than in other places in the US. Most of us know gays serving, and the arguments I’ve seen by rational (and normal) people that are anti-DADT are more often based on the social experiment function of dropping DADT; as Shawmut said, “sensitivity training.”

    That’s not to say there are no bigots in the military – the military is made of people and people have the freedom of will to be as stupid as they want. It *IS* to say that people’s reactions to Danny Choi is not necessarily indicative of being homophobic, and more likely to be a result of his dramatic grandstanding.

  12. I have to agree with you, AFW. It will only become acceptable if the flashy, in-your-face, “I’m gay, I’m out, I’m proud” stuff stops. Mark has brought up the point before that people tend to equate “openly gay” with the outrageous displays we tend to see at gay pride parades and festivals (nearly-naked men, topless women, people in their underwear, dancing throngs of painted bodies simulating sex in public while waving rainbow flags, etc.). This year, I saw a transgendered woman (a man undergoing a sex change to become a woman) walking around in a utili-kilt with no top on and electrical tape over her nipples.

    I’m a lesbian and I was horrified. I was perfectly professional, but what do we think the general public thinks when they see this kind of thing? They think the same things that those who support keeping DADT think – that we’re all a bunch of nymphomaniacs ready to hump everything that walks. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s easy to see what they’re seeing when even we are uncomfortable.

  13. “John – I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say definitively on the trump question. However, I do believe that it has been recognized that the military as an institution has to hold to different standards than the civilian population in its rules. Thus rulings like Lawrence v Texas does not trump the UCMJ.”

    If the UCMJ bans homosexual sex and Lawrence vs. Texas does not trump that, then a whole new can of worms opens up. If homosexual sex is illegal under UCMJ then you can be openly gay in the military but don’t get caught having sex?

    I don’t want to go there with that one.

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