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DADT Repeal Languishes in Senate

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A bill that would have repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was blocked yesterday in the U.S. Senate via a John McCain-led filibuster. The vote to halt repeal was 56-43.

Here’s the video from the Senate floor:

The controversy and debates surrounding the portion of the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” seem like a non-issue to me, at least to some degree, and there is one element here of which I might actually agree with some conservatives, but for a wholly different reason.

Admittedly, reading some portions of “10 U.S.C. § 654 : US Code – Section 654: Policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces” makes me cringe a bit, particularly the part about forcing homosexuals to refrain from whatever it is they do in their private lives, or else be discharged from the military. Presumably, straight people can go about their bedroom business unimpeded. Perhaps that portion should be repealed. But I think the specific part about military officials being banned from asking about personal orientation and personnel being banned from talking about it seems to me to be sound; I don’t believe sexual orientation is or should be relevant at all in military life. Thus if both gay and straight people simply banished any talk about who is or might be straight or gay seems to be the most constructive way to proceed, or maybe this is asking too much.

Regardless, the rationale, I suppose, behind the code above is that military personnel live separate lives than you or I, that they are essentially public figures and are held to a higher standard. But it is here that the prejudice in the code against homosexuals, that they intrinsically live less moral lives than anyone else, seeps through with lucidity. If homosexual military personnel are essentially public figures and are conduits of taxpayer money, so are straight service men and women. So, where is the ban on heterosexuals admitting they are straight or the ban on heterosexuals engaging in their behavior?

I previously wrote a review of the movie, “Milk,” with Sean Penn, in which I lauded Harvey Milk’s attempts to enact change in his community by doing it the right way: by running for public office, in contrast to those well-known gay pride parade attendees whose flamboyancy and flaunting of their gayness wins them few brownie points. I think there might be a measure of empowerment gained by paraders in providing shock value to the rest of us, sort of a way of taking comfort in their “otherness.” That’s something to which I can relate in some ways (in very different ways), but it seems to me that creating an atmosphere of otherness to the rest of the world within the gay community seems counter-intuitive to what those folks are attempting to accomplish. That is, equal rights. Thus, if homosexuals truly want to be equal, not just in word but by law, throw off the us-against-them mentality, run for office, say nothing about your private matters and enact change from the top down like everyone else. This, it seems to me, was Milk’s philosophy.

Again, regarding DADT, I think the best way to proceed in all this might be to ban conversation about sexual orientation or sexuality altogether, from enlistment to boot camp and beyond. For I can’t see how, in any way, sexual orientation, straight, bi or heterosexual, is relevant to any goal the military might hope to achieve, and this includes those who might seek to serve in the military as openly gay. It’s nobody’s business but their own.

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About Jeremy Styron