How officially homophobic is the U.S. military?
Apparently, even more so than a frat party, as we learned from a story on the campus of GW in recent weeks.
"GW," for those not living inside the beltway, is short for George Washington University, a respected, presumably progressive campus in the nation's capital. GW boasts a significant gay community among its student population and often hosts panels, seminars and workshops on LGBT equality. The school, in fact, has a decent reputation as being a forward-thinking, fair-minded college community. But it's fair-mindedness proved no match for federal bigotry.
Last week, the news media started to report that GW, which also has an active ROTC program, was forced to boot its first cadet under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that still - even this far into the 21st century - mandates the dismissal of openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel.
The dismissal of Todd Belok, a NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps) cadet was, according to at least one GW official, the first "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" incident the school has confronted in its entire history. And the entire ordeal began with a simple frat party kiss.
Belok, in a story in a neighboring school's newspaper, The Hoya, recounted that his boyfriend, as loving partners sometimes do, came to visit him on campus in the fall. The couple attended a frat party where other NROTC members were present and the two "kissed at the party," as Belok recalls.
The kiss, however, turned into a legal event when, a few weeks later, Belok's commanding offer called him to talk about the cadet's same-sex PDA.
"What Belok did not know was that two other midshipmen who had attended the party, GWU freshman Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis, a GWU senior, reported his actions to Lt. Kathleen Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science," The Hoya reported. "Still, Belok said, he expected that the situation would be swept under the rug without much controversy."
But Belok underestimated the power of a kiss to shake the world's most powerful military to its core.
"In October," the paper reports, "the Performance Review Board recommended Belok for disenrollment and dismissed him from the battalion in December."
If frat kisses are ground for dismissal, we're quickly approaching the day when posing for Abercrombie & Fitch will be "credible evidence" to fire a model-turned-troop for being gay.
In fact, Belok's story illuminates just how outrageous the law is, and just how viciously the federal government continues to keep "separate but equal" alive and well today. For, had Belok kissed a girl (and, in homage to Katy Perry, "liked it") there's little doubt that neither Dave Perry, Nick Trimis nor Lt. Meeuf would have had a problem with it. But even on one of the most open-minded campuses in the nation, a same-sex kiss still has the power to offend... and facilitate pink slips to boot.
The whole, shameful story also underscores how imperative it is, for the movement for LGBT equality as a whole, that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" be toppled once and for all. Because, when our simple and loving displays of affection are still considered a federal offense, we have a long, long way to go before our country embraces "liberty and justice for all."
It's time for Congress - and our commander-in-chief - to bring about an end to this law. Do it for the military... for the country... and the ROTC frat boys who want to kiss on campus when they show up for classes in the fall.