In terms of civil and human rights, yesterday was truly a momentous day. President Obama’s signing of the bill repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is, in it’s own way, every bit as momentous as the ending of race-based segregation. No, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but that should in no way diminish the triumph that homosexual servicemen and women realized yesterday.
Homosexuals have always served in our armed forces. They just couldn’t acknowledge their true nature without being persecuted. Imagine having to live every aspect of your life denying who your are, constantly hyper-aware of anything that might possibly draw even the slightest attention to your sexuality and your lifestyle. You can’t acknowledge your partner, nor can your partner share in any aspect of your professional life. Despite this, you face the same risks that heterosexual service members face. You hurt, bleed, and yes, even die in the same way; yet you’re refused the opportunity to acknowledge your true self, lest you be drummed out of the service as “unworthy”.
I can’t even begin to imagine what this must be like. There’s nothing in my life that I can use as anything close to a frame of reference. Even a disinterested observer can recognize that DADT has been inhuman, inhumane, and just plain wrong. Despite all of that, thousands of brave and dedicated Americans continue to serve their country despite their country officially considering them second-class citizens unworthy of wearing the same uniform as heterosexual Americans.
Time was when women in this country couldn’t vote. Time was when African-Americans couldn’t serve with Whites in our military. Removing those barriers were huge steps forward in our country’s history. Repealing DADT is another huge step forward. I know this on an intellectual level, but, not being Gay, I don’t have any emotional connection to the meaning of what this moment truly means. It’s nice to know that our military won’t be held hostage by the hatred and prejudice of those troglodytes still willing to treat some American as second-class citizens unworthy of equal treatment simply because of who they love.
History will no doubt look back on the ending of DADT as a significant moment in American history. If you’re Gay, or know someone who is, you no doubt recognize the significance of this event. No longer will a class of Americans have to deny who they are and be forced to live a lie simply to retain their ability to keep their job and serve their country. No long will they have to live in fear of being outed and drummed out of the military simply because they happen to love differently than the majority. Gay Americans have asked only for the opportunity to live openly and honestly as they serve the country they love. It’s sad to think that 13,500 heroes were persecuted simply for being who they are, and it’s hard not to wonder where these folks can go to get their careers back. Still, we can and should be proud that they right thing is finally being done for the right reasons.
It may take far too long sometimes, but America is a place that more often than not finds a way to do the right things. In this case, America will be a far better place for allowing homosexuals to serve openly. In time, the haters will be proven wrong, and we’ll be wondering why it took so long for us to do the right thing. The important thing is that a class of Americans will no longer be forced to live a lie. From where I sit, that’s a wonderful and long overdue thing.