As the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2011 the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was put to action. After 18 years of discrimination, the military code that dismissed more than 14,500 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members was no more.
Passed by Congress in 1993, DADT was a military law ordering the discharge of any service member who was openly gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. This law insinuates one could be gay, just not openly gay, and still continue to serve. This was not the case. A service member could be dismissed even if they did not “out” themselves but in some cases, if someone else “outted” them. In addition to the threat of dismissal were threats, harassment and persecution that could not be reported to superiors.
The repeal of this law is a step forward, indeed, but not nearly far enough. “We are a nation that believes all men and women are created equal,” President Obama said as he signed the bill repealing DADT into law. This bill doesn’t prove overall equality. It’s conditional equality on the government’s terms, for their benefit. Dismissing so many otherwise qualified service members is a huge economic hit (after all it took money and resources to prep, train, and deploy these gay soldiers), not to mention Obama just scored major points for reelection.
What the repeal of this bill really says is that gays, lesbians and bisexuals are now equally as qualified to kill. Not equal enough to marry, nor share benefits, not even be protected from general discrimination on our own American soil – just good enough to serve and perhaps die for their country, which will not grant them these rights. What an oxymoron: the same personal freedoms they fight for on our behalf have only conditionally been granted to them.
And we are supposed to jump for joy? We applaud this grand leap for equal rights? For the time being should we ignore the other dozens of pressing issues that prove inequality for the LGBT community? While this is a breakthrough for the men and women serving the military who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual, we are a far cry from equal. Contact local government, organize a group in your community, just get the word out there, that this may be a good start but it’s only that: a start. To reach real equality it needs to be on the people’s terms, with benefit to the people, on our own soil.