Thoughts on DADT’s demise

I have a piece at The American Prospect about the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell”:

For all the sad stories of gay service members who’ve been victims of this institutionalized discrimination, the fight over DADT has been about more than just gays in the military (who, by some estimates, already make up 2 percent of active service members). The true fight has been about what it means to say, “I am gay” — whether the affirmation is cause for social — and in the military, literal — ostracism and exclusion or whether it’s a neutral means of describing yourself. As with the fight over the term “marriage” — which is what was at stake in the Prop. 8 battle in California — the ability to say you’re gay without reprisal is really about the normalization of homosexuality.

As Judge Virginia Phillips noted in striking down the law this past September, for all the talk about “homosexual behavior” and the comfort of straight soldiers, DADT was always primarily a restriction on speech. In a sense, this is what made DADT such an abhorrent and fundamental assault on individual freedom: Like being forbidden to speak your own name, it denied gay people the simple right to identify themselves. As queer theorist Judith Butler pointed out in a well-known 1997 essay, the 1993 law was primarily concerned with giving others extensive guidelines for determining who counts as gay, “a homosexual is one whose definition is to be left to others, one who is denied the act of self-definition with respect to his or her sexuality, one whose self-denial is a prerequisite for military service.” …

When the president signs the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” today, it will strip anti-gay prejudice of the state’s imprimatur, allowing culture to happen where it usually does — in the everyday interactions between people who are very different, sometimes radically so, but still call themselves Americans. Allowing service members to know their gay colleagues is so threatening to religious conservatives because, as studies have shown, actually knowing a gay person is the best predictor of how one views homosexuality. Once service members can utter the words “I am gay” without an official state sanction, the culture-war battle has largely been won.

I’d be curious to hear what AMERICAblog Gay readers think of this analysis. I’ve always thought the most damaging thing about “don’t ask, don’t tell” was that it prevented straight soldiers from actually knowing one of the colleagues they knew and respected was gay — in other words, facing the fact that their prejudices and stereotypes about gay people weren’t true. As I’ve said before, DADT not only perpetuated anti-gay prejudice, it withheld the antidote.




AMERICAblog Gay

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So DADT’s Unconstitutional. What’s Next?

Note: Cross-posted on Bilerico.

Yesterday a ruling was finally issued on the years-old LCR v. USA case declaring DADT to be unconstitutional and placing an injunction on discharges.  I still remember the day – after a meeting with Sen. John Warner – Alex was asked to be lead plaintiff on this case.  Both legislative and judicial repeal were a long shot at that point, so the attitude then was "why not?"  Always good to have a backup plan. 

Always good indeed.

Over the next day or so there will be many analyses of what the ruling means that will be much more clever than my non law school-trained mind could produce.  So I won't.  Ultimately what the analyses will say is that this doesn't stop discharges, yet, and the appeals process is very long. 

So what does this mean going forward into, say, next week when Congress gets back into session?  It means we use this to push, push, push for a September vote.

Now is not the time to show off your political prowess with flabergasted side-eyed sentiments like, "Ok, this is a good step forward, but it's Log Cabin, so…I just don't get them and their self-hating self-hatred.  Here's my diatribe as to why." This lawsuit is a good thing, and a positive product many accuse Log Cabin of not producing.  If you claim your opinion of Log Cabin is based on rational logic, then rationally you have to give them kudos for this lawsuit.  No, you do.  Seriously, cut the crap.

Now is the time, however, to use the hell out of this lawsuit.  How?  Three ways:

a.) Talk, talk, talk about it.  Use this as an example of how the courts are stronger than our advocates in Congress.  State that the only way to claim otherwise is to vote on NDAA in September.  Show that if the Dems want to claim any association with repeal of DADT, they had better push Congressional repeal this year.  Write a blog about how a sure way to de-motivate a base is to not jump on repealing DADT now.  There are many possible angles to talk about this, so do.  Keep this in the public psyche going into next week, as this will be key in determining how Congress goes forward with its September schedule.

b.) Call/write/whatever your Senator and talk, talk, talk about it.  Let them know that you fully expect them to take on this issue this year and not let them be outdone by the courts, and that not pushing for legislative repeal, now, would be very disappointing.

c.) Identify upcoming DADT repeal events and participate where you can.  I can tell you on SU's end we have our Final Assault lobby day in DC next Thursday (September 16), which is a great opportunity to demonstrate that we, as a community, are taking repeal this year very seriously, and that we know that no vote in September is very bad for repeal prospects.

Bottom line – the momentum for repeal has kicked up again at a very opportune time.  Let's not screw it up over petty in-fighting. 

Let's do this.

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—  John Wright