Filed at 11:34a.m.EST Wednesday, December 22, 2010 By Khalidah Tunkara (Staff Writer)
“The US Armed Forces will join other militaries around the world, including Israel, which have found that military readiness is unharmed by having gays serve,” – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog).
So began the discussion in the Atlanta area when news hit that President Barak Obama signed a repeal of the 17 year ban on gay individuals in the military. The bill that came during the presidency of Bill Clinton known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” was controversial when it made headlines over 10 years ago.
Repeal Allows Gay Individuals Enlist
A repeal of the policy meant that gays will be accepted into the military and can speak about their sexual orientation without being kicked out of the service. More than 13,000 people have been discharged using the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy since its start, and as long ago as WWI, no one who was a homosexual could join the service.
Changes Won’t Be Immediate
It will take time for the changes, as the government must do a study to ensure the new policy will not hurt military fighting abilities. Then, it will still take 60 days for the policy to go into effect.
Gays and lesbians in the U.S. said that they see this as being a milestone at least as important as the civil rights acts of the 1960s. At rallies all over the U.S., former military members, who were put out due to being gay, spoke out on how they felt about the law. Some planned to reenlist as soon as everything was legally in place.
Still Some Oppositions
Of course, there were those who were unhappy with this latest decision, saying they believe it will hurt existing troop’s morale and the military’s fighting capabilities. Some conservatives say the repeal does not show the true feelings of most military service people and that it happened to close to Congress’s last session of the year.
This passage isn’t the first time the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has been questioned. There have been several movements since 1993 when it started to get it repealed. President Obama has said from the start of his term of office that he was in favor of repealing the ban.
Lawsuits have been filed over the years, with one in 2004 filed by the Log Cabin Republicans, one of the U.S. biggest gay group. The case was heard in 2010 by Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who ruled on Sept. 9 that the ban was unconstitutional, and in violation of both the 1st and 5th Amendments. A little over a month later, she granted an injunction ordering the Department of Defense to stop any proceedings against any suspected gay military member, and on Oct. 19 recruiters were told gays could enlist.
The repeal went back and forth, however, as on the very next day, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Pillip’s injunction. Over the next few months several such back and forth measures were argued in legislature until the current vote which ultimately granted the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The measure passed with a 65-31 margin, with all Democrats and 8 Republicans supporting it.
How the Public Feels
A poll earlier this month in the Washington Post stated that 77 percent of Americans are in favor of the repeal. Earlier polls gave somewhat similar results the prior month as well.
However, in a poll of the military, only 26 percent said they were in favor of gays in the service, with 37 percent being opposed and 37 percent unsure. Another 28 percent said they thought it would hurt morale.
Since 2007, 28 retired officers have tried to convince Congress to enact the repeal, saying there was evidence of more than 65,000 gays in the military. In 2009 Colin Powel told CNN that he thought the time was right for the policy to be reviewed and in Feb. 2010, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen spoke out against the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy
Sadly, the repeal comes too late for those who were harassed, even murdered when their sexual orientation was discovered by other service members. A now infamous incident in which this happened is the beating death of U.S. Navy Radioman Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr. who was killed due to his sexual orientation.
1. Gays See Repeal As A Civil Rights Milestone – Atlanta News Story – WGCL Atlanta.” CBSAtlanta.com | Atlanta, Georgia News, Local Weather and Tough Questions from WGCL, CBS Atlanta News. 18 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Dec. 2010. <http://www.cbsatlanta.com/news/26184011/detail.html>.
2. Entity, By. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 21 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Dec. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_ask,_don’t_tell>.