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On DADT repeal, 2 Steps Forward, 2 or 3 Steps Back

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw     Permalink
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There have been some interesting developments lately for gay men and lesbians who bravely want to serve this nation in the military. Sadly, some of the developments were not encouraging.

On September 21, Senate Republicans blocked a defense bill that included a conditional repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy. Even though the repeal would have been dependent on the completion of a Defense Department study and subsequent certification that it would not harm military effectiveness, the Republicans wouldn't even let the bill come to the floor for a debate.

The measure had already passed in the House and in the Senate Armed Services Committee. But that apparently made no difference.

Meanwhile, there's been some action in the courts regarding DADT.

On September 9, in Riverside, California, U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled that DADT is unconstitutional. The case had been brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a grassroots organization that advocates for gay rights.

In her 85-page opinion, Judge Phillips wrote that "the effect of [DADT] has been, not to advance the Government's interests of military readiness and unit cohesion, much less to do so significantly, but to harm that interest."

Sounds good, right? Well, don't hold your breath waiting for the judge's ruling to make a difference, because Obama's Justice Department announced on September 23 that it was filing an objection to the ruling. So the case could remain tied up in the courts for years.

Ditto for a September 24 ruling in a similar case in Tacoma Washington, in which U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled as unconstitutional the discharge of flight nurse Margaret Witt under DADT. As of this writing, there is no word as to whether or not the Justice Department will appeal this case as well, but I would be surprised if it didn't.

In response to the Justice Department's decision to appeal the Log Cabin Republicans' case, the organization's Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper had this to say: "We are deeply disappointed with this Administration's decision. Yet again, the Obama Administration has failed to live up to its campaign promise to repeal this unconstitutional law for the servicemembers of this country."

I don't usually side with the GOP, but in this case I proudly stand with the Log Cabin Republicans.

Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, weighed in from a practical perspective. "This 'witch hunt' policy has already resulted in the discharge of more than 14,000 service members, with an estimated 66,000 LGBT people currently serving in the armed forces and at risk of expulsion," said O'Neill. "It not only depletes the number of willing and able American troops, but the very ideal of equality on which our nation is based."

Indeed. This nation was founded on the principle that "all men are created equal" - not just the heterosexual ones. And this discrimination in the military isn't making us any safer.

In choosing to appeal at least one of these cases, the White House just blew a perfect opportunity to lend some validity to Obama's rhetoric about equality. Talk, after all, is cheap.


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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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