Friday, May 28, 2010

It isn't about the Foreign Service but...

I haven't commented on the latest developments on Don't Ask Don't Tell, and not because I don't think it will ultimately have an impact on the Foreign Service. I do. I'll get to that in a minute.

I haven't commented because I am of a mixed mind about what happened yesterday. A bill passed the House and was passed out of committee in the Senate repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the law which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

On the one hand, awesome that they voted for the repeal and that the full Senate will vote on it probably next week.

On the other, not so great that there are so many "if's." It will get repealled "if," after the full study (seriously, most of our allies allow gays to serve openly, which means in addition to all the gays and lesbians serving in silence in our military, our military is already serving in Iraq and Afghanistan with openly LGBT folks from our allies' militaries.), they find that the military can handled it, and "if" the President and Congress certify the results of that study.

So this feels like a feel good policy with no guarantee of results. Remember, there was no law before 1993 either, but the military was free to ban gays and lesbians by its own policies. And it did. This repeal just returns us to that place.

I do hope for a full repeal. I am just not yet convinced that there is the political will to do it, despite 78% of Americans supporting allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.

If there is a full repeal and gays and lesbians who want to serve the country in the military without being forced to lie about who they are, I think this will be the watershed for gay rights in this country. Because despite the fact that we in the Foreign Service also put our lives at risk to serve the country, Americans hold the military in a different regard. They are considered to be the ones making the ultimate sacrifice.

And I think when Americans are able to see how many gays and lesbians are serving in the military (more than 13,000 have been discharged since DADT, and estimates are that there are tens of thousands more serving in silence), they will be less willing to deny us our rights. Really, you can defend our freedoms but you don't have the freedom to legally marry your spouse? You can die for your country but the person you have spent your life with must pay inheritance taxes on the home you bought together?

So I think this is a positive step, but I really hope for more. For all of us.

Oh, and to the Washington Post, who wrote today that 13,000 had "left" the service because of the policy. They didn't "leave," they were kicked out against their will.


Anonymous said...

True Story. I don't think many people realize how many members of the military are LGBT. Almost everyone I know in the military is.

And I know alot of people in the military.

jc said...

A few years ago (2007) I used the Fourth of July as the occasion to gather the FSN staff for a periodic pep talk about why the (public affairs) work that we do is so important. I started by quoting the beginning of the Declaration and explaining that what makes America unique was the fact that our country was based on universal rights rather than on those of any specific group of people.

Furthermore, I went on, there has been a tendency over time to expand our understanding of those universal principles. Originally they may have been applied to white males, but our understanding of those principles had slowly expanded to include African Americans (and other racial minorities) and women. I then added that it was my personal opinion that the next expansion of that understanding of universal rights would be to include gays.

I don't think that at that point I would have predicted that three years later same sex marriage would be legal in five states and we would be in the process of repealing DADT, but I did know that the Stonewall riots took place in my lifetime (not that I was aware of them at the time) while to my daughter's generation (or at least her peers) sexual orientation was largely a non-issue.

I realize that it's harder to "take the long view" when it is your rights that are being denied, but the watershed was long ago. Celebrate the milestones.

Digger said...

What a great talk to give them! I may "borrow" it in the future. Are you still with State? Should I include you on the blogroll?

As for watershed or not, I don't know. I have been out a long time. Stonewall was in my lifetime as well, and shortly after that, my grandmother opened the first lesbian bar in South Carolina. I have been out for um...24 years now (suddenly I feel old!). I have seen a lot of milestones. This to me feels different. I'd say on the level of marriage in Massachusetts. I think a full repeal of DADT will be more than a milestone, and it will be the thing that makes the dam burst. Or at least I hope so.

jc said...

I am still with State, slowly making my way into the Foreign Service (from the civil service).

You are welcome to include my blog on the blogroll, but I've only posted once in about five years ...

Digger said...

I could put you as a future FSO and encourage you to blog more! Are you mustanging?