A story in the Boston Globe asserts that the Obama Administration is telling the Pentagon and gay rights activists that "it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress" before trying to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The sources cited for this information are "people involved in the discussions" -- in a word, that well known and ever useful reporter's friend "anonymous."
A study on the position the President articulated just last year? That's a bit odd, even for Washington. However, the Globe's unknown sources are quite correct when they say the Administration wants more support in Congress for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." So do I. As the Duchess of Windsor once observed, one can never be too rich nor too thin. Likewise, one can never have too much support for what is honorable, right, and just.
Senator Kennedy is now looking for Republican co-sponsors of the bill he plans to introduce in the Senate later this month that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and replace it with provisions to ban discrimination in the armed forces based on sexual orientation. He has a powerful supporter in Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said last week that he has consistently opposed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and is exploring ways to get rid of it in the current legislative year. In the last Congress 149 House members from both parties signed on to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act to end the ban. But there is always room for more. We have a big tent. Come on in.
What we don't welcome -- what we strongly oppose -- is yet another "study," which is Washington-speak for saying "let's just kick this down the road a ways." Out of sight, out of mind. You see, we're for repeal but don't really want to take a public stand right now (or we're bigots but don't have the guts to say so, outright bigotry being pretty unfashionable these days). So let's appropriate money for a commission or a study, maybe both. We'll have to appoint some members. That alone could take months. Of course the commission will need a staff. And offices. It could easily take a year before they get down to actually studying the issue (that's already been studied to death). Eventually -- and it could be a very long "eventually" -- we may see a report, the most recent in a long line of reports that began in 1988. That's 21 years ago!
Let's be clear: A commission or a study group is not about change. That's business as usual. We do not need another report to tell us what we already know and what earlier reports have long since concluded: the sexual orientation of a service member is irrelevant. What is relevant is how well he or she does the job.
So let's just skip another study. Let the new Administration display the courage of its convictions instead. Let them match their campaign promises with timely action. We'll continue to hold the President's feet to the fire but not in it -- yet. I'm optimistic that Congress and the Administration, without resorting to yet another study, can throw out the single remaining law that permits, indeed demands the firing of someone because of his or her sexual orientation. Despite the fears of some, sexual orientation is not contagious nor is it a choice. Tinky Winky the Teletubby never made anyone gay -- or straight, for that matter. As mounting evidence suggests, we're born that way.
In this country, we don't fire people because of the genes they're born with. We've come to understand that to protect the rights of the minority is to protect the rights of the majority as well. We're all in this together, folks. Put those outdated fears aside and just do it. Yes, you can. Yes, we can.
(Aubrey Sarvis, is the Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.)
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