The Republican led House had a hearing last week about the status of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. If you’ll recall, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was overturned by both houses of Congress and signed by President Obama in the “lame duck” session after Republicans successfully won back a majority of the House of Representatives.
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and the various laws forbidding (or not recognizing) same-sex marriage have been the two most important legal pillars of discrimination against gay and lesbian today. Gaining the right to marriage has received far more mainstream attention than DADT for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it strikes at the heart of dehumanizing gays and lesbians by stripping us of a basic human right to legal and social recognition of the family relationships we create. It also applies, at least potentially, to all gay and lesbian people and not just the subset who are currently members of our armed service branches.
While Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is on a fast track to the trash heap of bad policies, the religious right faction of the Republican party seeks to either slow implementation or at least to continue to try to use this as an issue in the next round of elections. Hence the hearings last week.
What became imminently clear in those hearings is that the leaders of our various armed service branches are finding far less resistance to implementation of the repeal than some first feared. We are on schedule to have gay and lesbian soldiers serving openly and proudly as early as this summer. It’s about time.
Part of the legislation that repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell required that the services have time to plan implementation of the repeal, including training of personnel and the creation of specific policies surrounding the policy. After the military has completed that process the law will be implemented after certification by President Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military is moving swiftly with training, as they said they would. Republicans who were on the losing side of the issue are attempting to slow things down and find or create evidence to reverse this important gain. But it’s not working.
Here are some of the key facts and quotes that came out of the hearing:
- “We’ve not seen issues,” said Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. “There’s not been anxiety over it from the forces in the field.” Amos was the most vocal opponent of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell last year, but “There hasn’t been the recalcitrant pushback,” Amos said.
- Army Gen. Norton Schwartz said he was “more comfortable than I was.”
- Navy Admiral Gary Roughead said the change will not be substantial or disruptive. “Repeal will not change who we are or what we do,” he said. “The same regulations and standards of conduct will apply.”
- According to Undersecretary for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley, the U.S. military has trained more than 200,000 members of the armed forces on handling open service, about nine percent of the armed forces.
- According to Stanley’s written testimony, Tier 2 training is set to end: Navy – April 3o; Air Force – May 1; Coast Guard – May 15; Army – July 15; Marine Corp – March 15 (already complete).
Fortunately we have made it past the political grandstanding that accompanied the passage of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – Senators with press crews in cramped quarters talking about how icky it would be to have to shower with a gay person.
So the policy ends as we knew it would: with a whimper. The unspectacular truth, well known by civilians who work alongside gay and lesbian people, or suburban families who live next to Dave and Steve, or sisters and brothers of gay people – it’s really a non-issue at the end of the day. There will be no Caligula-like orgies in the barracks showers, there will not be outbreaks of gay solidiers assaulting their straight colleagues, soldiers will not now suddenly shriek in terror, drop their weapons and run from the battlefield because now their comrades know that they are gay when last year they did not. It’s ridiculous really, but that’s how fear mongers work. They create or hint at ridiculous scenarios that will play on the ignorance and fear of those they seek to sway.
Much of the Republican party realizes this is no longer a great wedge issue. While it inflames a part of the base (and some in the party who owe their political lives to the reactionary base will continue to make noise) it’s now a minority view in the country as a whole, and those who want to make sure the Republican party is relevant to independents and younger voters are simply walking away. They are hoping that the abortion issue, on which the population is more evenly split, can continue to whip up the far right while not alienating more moderate voters. That’s why the near government shut-down came down to the issue of Republicans trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Mind you, the use of Federal funds to perform abortions is illegal, but this is not enough for the far right.
So we stand on the verge of a truly historic moment. And our gay and lesbian soldiers will continue to stand and serve proudly, but now honestly and openly.