Remembering Veterans by Working to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Editor’s Note: I could not have said this better …

Remembering Veterans by Working to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
by Michael A. Jones

Military ArmsDespite the fact that gay marriage advocates lost a heartbreaking vote in Maine last week, there was one individual whose story emerged from the election that has managed to not only go viral throughout the Internet, but has captured the hearts and minds of equality advocates. That man is Philip Spooner, and he’s a World War II vet who talked publicly about what the idea of gay marriage and equal rights meant to him.

“A woman at my polling place asked me, ‘Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?'” Spooner said. “I asked her, ‘What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?’ I haven’t seen so much blood and guts, so much suffering, much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that give America a great nation, one worth dying for.”

Spooner’s comments get at the heart of what Veterans Day — being celebrated today — is all about. Yes, it’s certainly about remembering fallen soldiers and those that served this country. But it’s also about the promise of equality and freedom, values that are supposed to apply to everyone in this country, regardless of sexual orientation.

It’s on that note that yesterday, the American Medical Association passed a resolution to become the latest professional organization calling for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory military policy that has to this date thrown out 13,000 soldiers from the U.S. military simply for being gay or lesbian.

Dr. Paul Wertsch, a Wisconsin doctor who wrote the resolution calling for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” said he did so because the currently policy forces doctors to lie.

“When a gay or lesbian soldier comes and talks to their doctor, psychiatrist, anyone…if it’s recorded in the record that the person is gay or lesbian, that’s basis for discharge,” Dr. Wertsch said. It forces a doctor to choose between being honest in the medical record, or hurting our country’s national security by aiding the dismissal of well-qualified soldiers from the military.

This Veterans Day, more people support a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” than ever before. The wheels of overturning the policy through Congressional action, however, remain slow. Earlier this month, Sen. Dick Durbin hinted that a Congressional repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t happen for at least another two years.

And now Rep. Barney Frank has said that it will at least be until next year’s Defense Department Budget Bill that a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is debated. That means that instead of debating a standalone bill calling for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a repeal measure would be attached to the larger defense spending bill for the 2011 fiscal year. It’s the same tactic that was used this year to pass inclusive hate crimes legislation that offered protections related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Folks should be confident that a repeal measure of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will pass. But folks are also allowed to be impatient with Congress and the Obama administration. While they wait to figure out the best legislative timing of repealing the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, more and more soldiers continue to be discharged for simply being who they are. That’s a thought not lost on veteran Derek Sparks, who was kicked out of the military for being gay.

“For me, Veterans Day is a day of pride. It’s also a day of rememberance of what Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell really is; a wasteful, discriminatory policy rooted in bigotry and hatred,” Sparks writes for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “It’s time to end DADT, not for myself or the other GLBT veterans, but for the 65,000 GLBT active servicemembers protecting us today. It’s also for the new generation of servicemembers that want to serve, but will look the other way because of DADT.”
Sparks is right. And so is Philip Spooner. Veterans Day is a day to remember that we are called to be a better nation when it comes to equal rights in our military.

[Originally posted on Gay Rights at change.org]

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