An Executive Order Would Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

lady gaga

Lady Gaga

This week Lady Gaga joined Maine’s rally to send a message to the state’s two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, asking them to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), a critical vote in Congress this week.

But to no one’s surprise Senate Republicans quashed it. Democrats needed only 60 votes to overcome a filibuster; the vote, however, was 56 to 43.

The question our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) servicemembers should be asking is whether this week’s vote was a sincere act on the Democrats’ part to repeal DADT.

Or was it merely pressure? Posturing? Or both?

While I realize that the Obama administration is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open military ranks to LGBTQ servicemembers, the Democrats knew they didn’t have the 60 votes needed even if Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted as Democrats had hoped.

With midterm elections now six weeks away, and with both Republican and Democratic candidates revving up their campaigns, playing to their bases’ concerns about taxes and the economy, did Democrats really expect or want or even care what the outcome on DADT would be this week?

While this week’s vote is another blow for the LGBTQ community concerning DADT, it makes the Democrats look disingenuous, as if they don’t care about this issue.

While the LGBTQ community now waits for the Pentagon to complete its study by December 1, reviewing how to maintain the military’s “unit cohesion” while integrating LGBTQ servicemembers, let’s not forget that as long as DADT is active it gravely impacts recruitment, morale, and unit cohesion because it’s okaying the firing of our LGBTQ servicemembers. To date, more than 13,500 LGBTQ servicemembers have been discharged under this discriminatory policy, and the number continues to grow.

“Doesn’t it seem to be that ’Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is backwards? …We’re penalizing the wrong soldier. …We gay soldiers, who harbor no hatred, no prejudice, no phobia, we’re sent home? I am here today because I would like to propose a new law; a law that sends home the soldier that has the problem. Our new law is called ’if you don’t like it, go home,’” Lady Gaga stated at Maine’s rally.

Had Lady Gaga’s logic prevailed before the Senate vote our U.S. military today would be less likely to lose another willing and patriotic servicemember because of his or her sexual orientation.

But with attitudes like those of Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian organization promoting “traditional family values,” DADT will continue to be a political pawn for anti-gay Christian conservatives who see this issue of LGBTQ in the military as a religious one and not as a civil rights issue.

“If the Senate fast-tracks the process, it would short-circuit the military’s review of any potential fallout from the change. While the majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have made it clear that such an assessment is necessary…part of the rush can be blamed on the November elections. The rest can be pinned on an angry homosexual base, whose groups like GetEQUAL have been filling Senate offices with fliers that say, ’You’re next! We demand “Don’t ask, don’t tell” be repealed now or you will become a target for non-violent direct action,’” Perkins wrote on FRC’s blog.

However, there are many LGBTQ servicemembers who believe these present anti-gay attitudes will change.

For example, Margarethe Cammermeyer — a lesbian and former chief nurse for the Washington State National Guard, and awardee of the Bronze Star for her service in Vietnam — is optimistic about the military. She believes that by 2027, the military will look very different, because sexual tension, sexual misconduct, and the treatment of LGBTQ servicemembers will be resolved. Cammermeyer also believes that the Uniform Code of Military Justice will be revised to reflect social mores and the reality of human sexuality. The result will be a pragmatic document that will preserve individual privacy, and consensual conduct will be considered a private matter.”

I commend Cammermeyer’s optimism, but 2027 is a long way off. The anti-gay attitudes of Republicans must be squelched, and the political posturing of Democrats supposedly acting on behalf of LGBTQ servicemembers, must be called out. Studies have been done over and over, showing that LGBTQ servicemembers do NOT harm “unit cohesion.” Enough is enough! And it’s time for action.

For example, following the Senate’s vote this week, Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, who recently welcomed Reserve Officers’ Training Corps ( ROTC) back on to campus, has now banned it until DADT is repealed. I hope more schools will follow.

And the action for President Obama to do is to issue an executive order on behalf of LGBTQ servicemembers.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order banning racial discrimination in defense industries and the government.

irene-headshot.jpgPresident Harry Truman issued Executive Order No. 9981 to provide full integration of African Americans in the armed services. And the executive order provided for “equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”

The volleying back and forth on DADT can come to an end simply by Obama using his presidential pen and single-handedly signing an executive order.

That is, of course, if he really wants to.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Published by the LA Progressive on September 25, 2010
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”