"That sound you hear in Washington is the federal government shooting itself in the foot."
So begins Congressman Gary Ackerman's op-ed in this morning's Newsday about the need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Ackerman, who recently took on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the same issue, is bringing some much-needed candor back to Congress. His column in today's paper reminds us that yes, there really are a few lawmakers left who "tell it like it is," and take a stand in favor of doing the right thing. Ackerman is even issuing a challenge to Congress: repeal the military's ban on open service when they reconvene this fall.
"It used to be argued that service by openly gay and lesbian patriots would undermine the efficacy of our armed forces," Ackerman writes. "I find it hard to believe that our soldiers and Marines - who go on daily combat patrols carrying 60 pounds of gear and ammo in 120-degree heat with the real prospect of death or dismemberment - are going to lose their nerve if the gays and lesbians who are already serving in uniform are allowed to do so openly."
"If they're tough enough to tackle al-Qaida," he notes, "I think they'll manage to serve with 'Will and Grace.' Canada, Australia, Israel and every country in Europe allows open service by gays and lesbians. I haven't heard that any of these countries' armed forces are seriously overstretched (like ours) or have been reduced to recruiting ex-cons to fill their ranks (like ours)."
"Until this regressive policy is consigned to the trash heap with other indefensible forms of bias, more messages will go untranslated, more wounded service members will go untreated and more recruitment slots will go unfilled. If we're serious about winning the war on terror, we need to roll out the welcome mat for every patriot, gay or straight, who wants to serve. When Congress reconvenes in September, we need to do the right thing and lift this ban."
Kudos to Ackerman for his biting commentary, which exposes the utter stupidity of keeping this law in place. We should all challenge our own Representatives, if they're not already sponsors of repeal legislation, to follow the Congressman's lead and sign on today.