The arc of history does not bend toward justice as promptly as I and many others would like, but with the repealing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell we have witnessed an event that people will refer back to far into the future as a moment when things changed for the better. The repealing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst toward greater acceptance and equality in other areas. Hopefully it has much the same effect that desegregating the military had in 1948.
There were, however, 31 senators and many others who did not want this repeal to happen. You could even go so far as saying they were on the wrong side of the arc of history, the side that bends toward inequality and discrimination rather than justice. One senator said that, while the policy needs to be changed in the future, “In the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it.”
The problem with this statement is that it is a misnomer. The U.S. has troops around the world all the time and there will be troops or “residual forces” in Afghanistan and Iraq for decades. What this means is that the senator was basically saying it should never happen.
The leading senator against repeal of DADT, John McCain, has repeatedly moved his benchmarks for when it should be repealed and said that repealing the law will “harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”
Apparently McCain does not understand that even without the repealing of DADT, there are still gays currently in the military — and from the survey taken recently, we know that just under 70 percent of those surveyed acknowledged that they fought with or worked alongside gay and/or lesbian servicemembers. Coincidentally, 70 percent of respondents also reported that integrating gays into the military would be positive, mixed, or of no consequence.
McCain also warned us of repealing DADT, saying, “Don’t think there won’t be a great cost.” If he is so worried about cohesion and cost, he should consider that, since the inception of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 1993, over 13,000 troops have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation — hardly a sign of cohesion.
Also, 25 other countries already allow gays to serve openly in the military, including Great Britain, Australia, Colombia, Italy, Japan and Spain, among others. Nobody was telling them there would be a problem with cohesion when they enlisted to help support current U.S. military adventures. Some of those countries even recognize same-sex marriages as legal.
Being on the wrong side of history is nothing to be proud of. But just as 70 percent of military respondents have seen, knowing someone who is gay or lesbian dispels myths and leads to greater understanding. Largely due to that kind of increased familiarity and tolerance, one more unjust policy has become a part of history rather than an unjust part of the present.
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