Is Lt. Dan Choi an LGBT "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hero? Yes, but a better question might be: Does GetEQUAL, the organization Choi is associated with, know what it's doing, is it acting out of passion and ego or becoming HRC-lite, as suggested this week by Bilerico Editor-In-Chief Bil Browning?
Four weeks ago, I suggested (or predicted) exactly what could be done to solve the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" problem. The column, called "An Obama DADT apologist?" is almost exactly what we received out of Congress.
There are two major differences: My column gave a dated deadline and the pragmatic way of getting there. The fast passage of the compromise repeal legislation, which we'll give Choi and GetEQUAL credit for, unfortunately does not legally give that deadline, nor protection for those currently serving. Our "Apologist" deadline was the end of the year and covered those serving now. The "new" legislative compromise suggests the end of the year.
This is where GetEQUAL failed.
A deadline was not part of the dialogue in scoping the compromise. Was the organization more interested in publicity than accomplishing the goal of equality? There is no doubt that publicity pushed the issue -- but too quickly to reach a compromise that changes very little until possibly the end of the year. GetEQUAL may have pushed the administration too fast into making a fast compromise.
As for Choi, he is a hero simply by putting his military career on the line to end the ban on openly gay servicemembers, and for doing it through civil disobedience. But he's not the first.
Did you ever hear the name Leonard Matlovich? He was the first gay servicemember to fight the ban on gays in the military. His fight to stay in the Air Force after he came out of the closet was broadcast on the network news and even landed him on the cover of Time magazine. His fight began on March 6, 1975, when he wrote his to Air Force commander and disclosed he was gay. At the time, he was a decorated Vietnam veteran -- Purple Heart, among other awards -- who taught race relations.
And lesbians in the military? Margarethe Cammermeyer, a former colonel in the Washington National Guard, told her superior she was a lesbian in 1989 during a routine security-clearance investigation. The military immediately filed to discharge her, which took until June 1992. In response, she sued and, in 1994, she won the case and went back into service until her retirement in 1997. Later, a network TV movie about her life, "Serving in Silence," aired to a nationwide audience.
We need people like Choi, and organizations like GetEQUAL, to show our discontent and anger. But when they are unable to secure the outcomes we want, we also need organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to pull it all together. HRC, SLDN, Servicemembers United and GetEQUAL, among others, can share credit for this compromise. Isn't teamwork a beautiful thing?