Despite conservative outcry, fear-mongering, and dark warnings of a hastened Armageddon the demise this week of the United States military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy doesn’t matter all that much.
Congress voted earlier, and Wednesday this week President Barack Obama signed into law a repeal of the nation’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward gays and lesbians serving openly in the United States armed forces. The policy had been in effect since 1993 when the Clinton Administration supported its adoption as a compromise policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve as long as they or their commanders didn’t make an issue of their sexuality. Prior to this time, gay and lesbian citizens were denied entry into the American military and were dismissed if discovered.
Since his days as a candidate President Obama has made no secret of his support for this change. In the sense of a promise made and delivered this is a victory for the Obama Administration. After the President’s brokered tax deal this month he’s on a small roll. He should enjoy it. Given the tough budgetary choices, volatile economy, and chronic wars and rumors of wars facing him he’s not likely to have too many more good days.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t matter much for several reasons. Gays and lesbians have been and are serving in the military, sometimes with distinction and rarely with issues developing around their sexuality. Gays and lesbians already have access to virtually every other professional opportunity in the American economy and culture, so why not the military?
If it’s a matter of civil liberties, than it’s a no-brainer. Gays and lesbians, however much some people find their sexual orientation unacceptable, are just as much citizens of a free country as heterosexuals.
A number of years ago I watched as a local school district all but crucified a teacher who'd been outed. He was, by virtually everyone's testimony, a good, effective teacher. His only "crime" or "unprofessional" act is that he was gay. Christians in the community led the charge to oust this person, made national news, and it wasn't pretty. It was awful. Had the man done something inappropriate than surely he should have been held to account. But he had not. This was all about who could be the most moral by casting the first stone. No one "won" in this charade, least of all not the community, the school district, certainly not the teacher. It was politics not moral suasion. It was ineffective and wrong.
Women have been serving effectively in the United States military since World War II, and even before that in non-soldier or sailor staff roles. Since the Persian Gulf War women have flown combat aircraft for the United States. While they yet do not serve in combat arms positions, women serve in virtually every other role in the American armed forces.
So what’s the point? Doesn’t it seem logical that if any emotional or psychological or gender-related issues develop in military situations they are far more likely to develop between straight men and women as opposed to heterosexual and homosexual individuals? For one thing, there’s simply far more straight men and women serving than gay or lesbians serving. In this case, gender tensions are more likely to develop from time to time than any tensions rooted in sexual orientation. So if heterosexual people can manage to serve near one another in the American military, without inappropriate consequences, why can’t homosexual individuals do the same along with them?
And why, pray tell, are conservatives or religious groups so bent out of shape over potential immoral homosexual activities when the armed forces certainly has its share of potential and real immoral heterosexual activities? The reason is, of course, an implication that homosexual immorality is worse than heterosexual immorality, a moral distinction not found in Scripture.
Let me be clear: I do not embrace or condone homosexual behavior. I believe the Bible’s teachings on sexuality, heterosexual, homosexual, and otherwise, are quite clear. Sex is a gift of God reserved for monogamous, lifelong, heterosexual marriage. Sex outside this definition, gay or straight, is in God's eyes immoral.
But I think conservatives and/or Christians have long since lost the culture war on this one—and I've written about it—and need to determine how they are going to live in a society that openly allows homosexuality.
Sure, gay and lesbian interests will declare the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a great victory and try to use it as a springboard furthering their other social goals. But won’t they work toward those goals anyway?
In the end, when it comes down to it, gays and lesbians can be and have been just as patriotic, sacrificial, noble, brave, or heroic as any other soldier or sailor. I say, “Let them serve.” Address moral concerns with moral living and a moral message, not politics and not the military.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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