Michael Hamar

Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Now. It is Well Past Time.

Filed By Michael Hamar | June 21, 2009 6:30 AM | comments

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Living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia with its huge military population, Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) is an ever present blight on the LGBT community. I personally know numerous gay and lesbian couples where one of the partners is active duty military and they live in constant fear of discovery.

The result is that they must live very low profile lives, be careful how they hold title to property and take numerous other precautions to guard against possible discovery of their relationships.

In some cases, gays and lesbians even marry for cover as they each live their true lives on the side. Despite such precautions, a single disgruntled fellow service member can make allegations that result in "witch hunts" - and in the case of two friends, both were thrown out of the military and they never even knew the identity of their accuser.

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Moreover, while the military claims that it "does not ask," the reality is that there are those in the military that have been known to watch people leaving gay bars trying to identify military personnel, and those who search gay chat rooms for the same purpose.

Thus, while President Obama and Congressional Democrats spinelessly dance around the issue - basically because of anti-gay religious based discrimination - real lives are adversely affected literally ever day, and frequently individuals are "outed" through no direct actions of their own.

It has been argued that Obama could end discharges via an executive order - but as one highly-placed LGBT opponent of DADT has made clear, there is a good argument why this approach has definite negative aspects to it. Here are some highlights from a recent e-mail:

The prior gay ban was, in fact, suspended during the first Gulf War...but what happened, immediately after, is that the gay troops whose dismissals had been postponed were sent home and fired at the war's conclusion.

As a result, dozens of Americans who had served honorably in the war zone were kept on board just long enough to finish the job, and then given a pink slip as a "thank you" for their service. I don't think any of us would argue that was an acceptable solution.

Even if an executive order could be used as a temporary solution by President Obama (and I'm not yet completely convinced that it could be), it opens up a can of worms, and a ton of questions that - down the road - could be very problematic for our community, and our country.

If President Obama were to sign such an order, he would essentially be circumventing the will (and power) of Congress. Because, while other prior gay bans were a matter of military policy, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a law codified by Congress. When it became law, Congress - for all intents and purposes - took the power to implement, modify or cancel the law away from the commander-in-chief and gave it to the legislative branch instead.

Were President Obama to attempt the precedent (and it would be that) of stopping implementation of a Congressional law via executive order, it would set off a litany of constitutional questions. And, even if the order withstood legal scrutiny (which, again, I have serious doubts about), it would then set the stage to allow future Presidents to simply stop implementation of Congressional efforts with the stroke of a pen.

I believe that this analysis is on point and, therefore, the only real solution is Congressional repeal of DADT. If Obama and the Democrats continue to be spineless on this issue, then the LGBT community needs to make the apparent unraveling of the DNC fundraiser this coming week a political disaster that resonates with the Democratic Party.

The LGBT money ATM needs to be turned off and our "supposed community leaders" need to stop running to the White House whenever invited so that the Obama administration can engage in damage control.

As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John M. Shalikashvili says, the true evidence supports the fact that gays serving openly in the military does NOT impair unit cohesiveness or military readiness. We simple need leaders who have the courage to do the right thing rather than stand about fearfully wringing their hands. Here are some highlights from Shalikashvili's recent editorial in the Washington Post:

Tradition is a critical military value, and the armed forces have a long-standing tradition of banning gay men and lesbians. Equally important military traditions, however, are learning and adapting -- and my colleagues made claims as if no new knowledge has been acquired over past decades, during which time Israel and Britain joined more than 20 other nations to allow openly gay individuals to serve without overall problems.

In Britain and Canada, polls had indicated that thousands would resign if gays were allowed to serve, but when the bans were lifted, almost no one left. The British Defense Ministry conducted several assessments of the policy change and called it a "solid achievement." The flag officers neglected to acknowledge Britain's experience, instead dismissing the relevance of nations such as "Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada."

While it is true that the U.S. armed forces are unique, it is important that we not marginalize the lessons learned in other countries -- particularly those that often conduct joint operations with us.

But it is not just foreign militaries that show service by allowing openly gay individuals to serve their country. The U.S. military itself has had successful experiences. Enforcement of the ban was suspended without problems during the Persian Gulf War, and there were no reports of angry departures.

According to several polls and reports released in the last several years, a majority of U.S. service members say they know or believe someone in their unit may be gay or lesbian - and yet find no detriment to unit morale or cohesion.

Truth be told, it is far past time for Obama and the Congressional Democrats to stop listening to the likes of the laughable Elaine Donnelly and similar deranged Christianist homophobes, and instead deliver on Obama's promise to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Absent some delivery on his campaign promises, personally I will not believe a thing that Mr. Obama and his mouthpieces say about being "fierce advocates" for LGBT Americans.


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