By Isis Win
A major cornerstone has been achieved with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – DADT. The compromise that President Clinton settled for after negotiations to halt expulsion and criminalizing gay and lesbian members of the armed forces in the military in December 21, 1993, has come to an end.
Before Clinton’s compromise, gay and lesbian soldiers were criminally prosecuted, sentenced, jailed and expelled from all the branches in of the military, just because they were homosexual. Many served long jail sentences and all were discharged with dishonorable records that made for them impossible to pursue a career as officers of law enforcement and as well, to collect the benefits they worked for during their years in the military. But DADT was far from being the right measure. The result forced gay and lesbian troops to hide their “sexual preference”, or rather, who they really are. However, for the first time in history, gay and lesbian people were able to apply to service without having to face criminal charges for joining the military. That is, as long as the kept their sexual preference secret. Nevertheless, they still were stigmatized if discovered and it wasn’t uncommon to learn that soldiers against homosexuality denounced them in exchange for benefits and favors. As well, victimization of homosexual soldiers was a fact of life in the forces. Many criminal acts against gay were ignored.
Many Americans considered DADT unjust, unfair and illegal. President Obama during his presidential campaign promised members of the military, their family members, friends and supporters to repeal this compromise and allow all gay and lesbian soldiers to serve the military without having to conceal their personal and intimate sexual preference.
The fight to repeal DADT wasn’t an easy task to undertake. There was antagonism from all venues, particularly from the House of Representatives. Congressmen were concerned about losing their seats in the house because a large number of their constituents manifested opposition towards repealing this measure. It required a massive lobbying on the part of the average citizens who made thousands of calls and sent thousands of letters to the legislative body, The White House and the military authorities. As well, all advocacy entities invested millions of dollars to lobby at all levels for the repeal of this unjust compromise. I am extremely satisfied of being to be one of the millions of people who invested time in making this change to take place.
On the side of the White House, President Obama gathered the military brass to get involved in the making this change. The White House placed all their weight to the military members to make this possible. Prior to the repeal, the military went through a series of considerations to study the possibility and consequences of this change.
DADT never reached a plateau to be considered by the Supreme Court but a number of times it came quite close. Then, advocacy institutions and mainstream people at large, placed a lot of pressure to on the Congress. The Congress just did what they know how to do best: Promise to consider it and possibly vote in favor when the bill would reach the Congress. Personally, I witnessed during a HRC (Human Rights Campaign) visit to my local Congressman (I was one of the HRC advocates) promising to vote in favor of the repeal. But as well, he claimed being realistic, stating that if support from the brass wasn’t there, the bill would never pass. However, my Congressmen never hid his support for the repeal. Perhaps, one of the reasons he never reached reelection. How sad is that?
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell now is a thing of the past. It is history and passing this repeal is not just a mere political maneuver. The brass, at the insistence of President Obama, considered the situation, studied it and passed surveys among the troops to assess their sentiment about the possible repeal. The surveys revealed 80% of the troops supported the repeal. As a result, the top brass opted for training the entire armed forces in regards of to how to deal with any possible scenario that could contradict the passing of the repeal. 96% of the troops passed through this training. Then, top military presented their results to the White House and the repeal was announced.
Leadership in all the military branches, were quite clear to the troops stating that any action against the repeal or gay and lesbian soldiers would not be tolerated. It became a top order and soldiers are to obey orders regardless of anything.
DADT now is history to be celebrated. One battle has been won and many others still are on the burner. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) fights the exclusion of Federal recognition of same-gender marriage. A constitutional right denied to gay and lesbian people. At some point, DOMA will be brought to before the Supreme Court, where it hopefully will be declared unconstitutional. Federally recognized marriage between persons of the same gender will become another gain in the realm of obsolete civil rights infringements against the people of the United States and gay and lesbian people. Until this happens, however, this is a sad panorama as is. For instance, many Post-operative transgendered people, have to remain legally under their born marker, otherwise their marriage becomes illegal and invalid.
Hopefully, we will reach this needed change soon but it is extremely difficult to predict it due to the actual political situation between Republicans and Democrats. More specifically, those Republicans who are campaigning against President Obama. Opposition to same-gender marriage has become a matter of propaganda against the President. Barring same-sex marriage recognition is based on an erroneous argument denying the validity such marriages as a constitutional civil right. Despite this fallacy, it is has been used as propaganda to stir the conservative population against this right. All based on obsolete and ankylosed beliefs that are no less than a pure reflection of ignorance and fear. Nevertheless, republicans use fear and fundamentalists’ beliefs to catapult their candidacy among the American people. This sad reality not only presents the poor panorama of the integrity of the patriotic obligations of any member in government, but as well, their manipulation of the facts to represent themselves as the best next president. It is evident, people at times tend to become blind and these campaigns, loaded with lack of intolerance and defamation, are clearly a sign of the breakdown of basic initiatives, politics, and policies that supposedly are for the best of the nation and represent the will of all the people of the United States of America. Nevertheless, just like in the era of segregation, they only serve a sector of the population and ignore the one that has been actively seeking for the right change.
It isn’t like the nation is not facing more important and detrimental problems that threaten the well-being of all Americans. In fact, one item that seems to be missed in this political arena of today, is the fact that rich people have paid much lower taxes for many years and republicans use President Obama’s initiative to increase their tax quota to attack him as an unpatriotic American or President. Looking back into our recent history, we can’t overlook the fact that the previous administration made a few vital and drastic mistakes during their administration. Mistakes such as poor planning post invasion of Iraq, the removal of Hussein and the placement of a legitimate regime that will conform to the will of the Iraqi people. These terrible mistakes have cost trillions of US dollars and the loss of thousands of lives. American and Iraqi lives. It is one of the main reasons we have a high deficit today. More importantly, the war in Iraq brought a lack of stability in the Persian region due to the presence of the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As if all of these are not enough to concern any politician and American citizen, we are passing through the worst global financial crisis, the same that started right here, in our own land, under the watch of the previous administration.
So what will the presidential candidates do about that, instead of making charges against and throwing dirt on the current administration? It is time for every single conscious adult American to take the gavel in hand and let the presidential candidates know that it is enough of false rhetorical garbage and promises and it is about time to pitch into getting our nation out the hole we already are in. If they claim they can only do that once they are in the White House and cannot do anything before, why would we vote for them? These times demand contributing what we can – as we can, instead of invalidating what others do about it. However, the example from the competing republicans is clear and good enough to invalidate them as a possible next ruler. The bottom fact is that we are – where we are – and we need to change it.
But this is not just about the politicians and their politics. This is about every single individual because after all, we all are involved. Just like the soldiers that offer their own lives for the sake of us. I am glad for them since now, they have the right to be who they are as they are. 60 thousand gay and lesbian soldiers now can relax or better, feel being appreciated by all Americans. Today, we are a better America.