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Repeal makes ‘ask, tell’ policy for now

Submitted by Geoffrey Bara on October 3, 2011 – 6:44 pmNo Comment

Cartoon by Elizabeth Armstrong

The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding sexuality was recently repealed by President Obama in a move long-awaited by many of our servicemen and women.  Long awaited, in fact, by many people not even in the military, like myself.

I have long held fast to the belief that enlisting in the armed forces while “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in effect was giving tacit approval to said policy.  It would have been more beneficial to the “cause,” I used to argue, if the members of the LGBTQ community who were out and wanted to serve forewent enlistment, in favor of writing to the elected official of their choice and explaining that they would enlist, but refuse to lie about themselves to do it.  I always thought that the gaping holes left in the various branches of our military would speak louder than silence.  That is no longer an issue now because of the repeal.  Or is it?

In a recent Republican primary debate, an openly gay soldier, Stephen Hill, currently serving in Iraq posed a question to the assembled presidential hopefuls. He wanted to know if, in the event that one of the candidates became president, would he or she attempt to “circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”

Most disturbing was that his question was met with boos from the audience. Booing anyone actively serving in our Army in Iraq is reprehensible, no matter with whom they choose to sleep when they are on leave.  Those who sat safely and smugly in a climate controlled auditorium in the U.S. and booed a soldier who is fighting in a war, helping to make the world safe for democracy, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The candidate who was selected to answer the question was Rick Santorum, the latest in a seemingly endless cavalcade of Republicans to offend my sense of ethics and good taste.  His response was, “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. The fact they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to, and removing don’t ask don’t tell, I think, tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country.”

Santorum fails to realize the point of Hill’s question, and indeed seems not to have heard it at all.  To assume that most soldiers, gay or straight, are not sexually active while enlisted is ridiculous, but to believe that getting rid of a blatantly prejudiced and antiquated policy can be termed a “special privilege” and is in some way a free pass for gay and lesbian soldiers to run around having sex whenever they like is worse; it’s out of touch with reality.

The LGBTQ community isn’t fighting for the right to have sex. We are fighting for the right to be open about our identities without fear of losing our jobs, our homes, our friends or our lives.

Santorum said his intention, if elected, is to reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to “move forward in conformity with what has happened in the past.”  Is this viewpoint restricted to “don’t ask, don’t tell”?  Why stop there, Santorum?  Why not take the vote away from women?  Segregate our schools?  Give those pesky 13 colonies back to Britain?  There may be something to be said for a return to traditional American values, but it is important to identify just what they are.  Discrimination is not among them.

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