Permissible Arms

And then I had to take a little reality break

Posted in us military, us politics by Karaka on 13 October 2009

President Obama spoke before the Human Rights Council on Saturday, reaffirming his committment to ending DADT:

“We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country,” Mr Obama said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage.”

Mr Obama did not give a timetable for repeal of the policy, passed by Congress in 1993, under which thousands of service members have been discharged.The US president has repeatedly pledged to tackle issues important to the gay community. But he has faced criticism for what many in the gay community see as lack of action on his promises. Mr Obama asked the audience to trust his administration.

“I appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough. Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach,” he said.

This was followed Sunday by an unrelated march in Washington in support of gay rights:

Impatient and discouraged by what they see as a certain detachment by President Obama on their issues, gay rights supporters took to the streets Sunday in the largest demonstration for gay rights here in nearly a decade. The rally was primarily the undertaking of a new generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates who have grown disillusioned with the movement’s leadership.

Known as Stonewall 2.0 or the Prop. 8 Generation (a reference to the galvanizing effect that the repeal of California’s same-sex marriage law had on many young people), these activists, in their 20s and 30s, are at odds with advocates urging patience as Mr. Obama grapples with other pieces of his domestic agenda like the health care overhaul and the economic recovery.

And this occurred just as Voices of Honor concluded last week in California:

According to Nicholson, the toll “don’t ask, don’t tell” has taken on the U.S. military is far greater than the estimated 13,000 servicemembers actually discharged under the policy “either because they admitted being Gay or Lesbian, were ‘outed’ or were caught having ‘homosexual acts.’ We also estimate that about 3,000 people leave the service every year” because they no longer wish to hold down a job that forces them to lie about who they are as a condition of continued employment. Nicholson also said that probably even more language and intelligence specialists are being forced out than official figures would indicate, because “’linguist’ is a specialized field and a liot of people who know languages aren’t qualified as ‘linguists’ — including me.”

Nicholson said he was a “human intelligence coordinator” in the Army until 2002, when he was discharged after being “outed” by someone in his unit. “I tried to contain the information,” he said, “but once it got to command, they decided to rout me out quickly.” Not everybody is pushed out as fast as he was, he added; enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is left largely up to commanders in the field, and as a result implementation varies widely. “There are many people serving openly today,” he said — thanks to superior officers being willing to leave them alone — “and you don’t find the underlying rationale, the alleged threat to unit cohesion, morale and combat readiness, has come to pass.”

and Joseph Rocha’s op-ed in the WP:

However, I chose to put service above my personal life. My understanding of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was that if I kept quiet about my sexuality and didn’t break any rules, I would face no punishment. I was wrong.

Once I joined the Navy, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, for being gay. The irony of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply. Now, after a Youth Radio investigation of the abuses I suffered, the chief of naval operations ordered a thorough study of how the Navy handled the situation and is currently reviewing the document. I’m hopeful that the case will be reopened and top leadership finally held accountable for the lives they have ruined.

and an AP article indicating that women are more likely to be discharged under DADT than men:

Pentagon officials won’t speculate why women in uniform are more likely to be discharged from the armed services under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but critics of the policy say that new figures reflect deep-seated sexism in the armed forces.

Government statistics show that more than 619 men and women were discharged last year because of their sexual orientation. Of those, one-third were women — even though they account for 15 percent of all active-duty and reserve members.

and Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has stated he will hold a hearing on DADT this fall:

Congress is set to hold hearings as early as this month on the controversial “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy barring openly gay people from serving in the military, according to a centrist Democratic congresswoman. Should they take place, the hearings would be the first on the provision opposed by many Democratic lawmakers as unjust and antiquated.

“I think we’ll have one this fall. And I’m looking forward to trying to have one for the Armed Services Committee probably in October or November,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has long opposed the provision, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.

I think DADT is stupid, and I’ve been involved in a couple discussions hither and yon around the fair internet about it since Levin announced the probable hearing and Obama was slated to speak before the HRC. It’s a little remarkable how many times I’ve been told by purportedly straight people, civilians and servicemembers, that gay people should just shut and serve; but I think much of the above linked material, from reputable sources, indicates that serving isn’t that easy when discrimination is pervasive. My rubric is this: if a straight person can come to work and talk about Suzie Rottencrotch from last libo; if a straight person can come to work and talk about their wife or husband, praising or bitching about them; if a straight person can come to work and not have to censor their own personal lives for fear of losing their jobs; then the question of whether silence equals service is irrelevant, because by not talking about those things, a queer servicemember isolates and identifies him/herself as much as if they talked about it.

To claim that DADT enables gay servicemembers to serve is patently false, as the 13,000 people who have been discharged can attest; to claim that enforcing a code of dishonesty and silence somehow maintains the integrity of the service itself is a logical fallacy; and to claim that such a code of silence somehow protects queer servicemembers from being identified as queer and frequently subsequently incurring their dismissal from the service comes from a wholly entitled point of view that ignores reality.

That being said, it looks like this matter has come to the forefront whether the “time is now” or not.

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