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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Send in the gay Marines

On September 20 the Obama administration ended the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which prevented openly gay men and women from serving in the US military. This toxic policy meant that thousands of gay people in the military were forced into the closet, in constant fear of being outed. Many people with valuable skills and years of expensive training were kicked out of the armed forces when their sexual orientation was revealed.

Conservative critics warned that ending DADT would have catastrophic effects on US military strength, with many warning of the pending calamity of straight soldiers having to shower with their gay comrades. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, made it clear that he was against repeal of DADT and would be "comfortable" reinstating it if he became President:
Rick Perry said it was "irresponsible" for President Barack Obama to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military.
In an ABC News/Yahoo News interview, Perry called don't ask, don't tell a "workable policy." The Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate accused Obama of playing politics with the military.
"(Obama) wanted to make a political statement, using the men and women in the military as a tool for that," the Republican presidential candidate told ABC's Christiane Amanpour. "I truly believe that he did it to respond to his political base."
But Perry refused to say whether he would reinstate the policy if he were elected president. He told ABC/Yahoo that he would be "comfortable" going back to the policy.
Perry used the DADT issue to throw some red meat to his Christian base in this TV ad:



It was in this context that I recently read a touching blog post written by Captain Matthew Phelps, a ten-year veteran of the US Marine Corps. DADT was making his life a living hell, and when it was finally repealed his life changed drastically for the better. He writes a particularly moving account of taking a gay male friend as his date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in San Diego on November 10, knowing that he and his friend would be the only male couple there. Anyone who doubts that gay men and women can't serve effectively in the armed forces and be accepted by their straight comrades should read his account in its entirety. He concludes with these words:
I was overwhelmed by the whole occasion, and happily surprised at how well everything had gone and how supportive everyone had been. There was one particular moment, however, that struck me and I’ll never forget it. Brandon and I were standing in the middle of the room, him handsomely as ever in his suit after his first Marine Corps event, me in my dress blues on my 236th birthday, surrounded by an amazing group of gay and straight civilians and Marines, and I looked at him. We had survived a night I thought would never come, and with it behind us there would be many more: maybe for us, but definitely for all those who will come after we have been long forgotten. I thought to myself as I looked in his eyes that we’d done it, and I kissed him.
Bravo, Captain Phelps.

5 comments:

centerguy said...

Really

Cytotoxic said...

Anybody who thinks gays can't effectively serve in the military hasn't seen the movie 300.

Gerry said...

thousands? really? hmmmm, based on census of 1.2 to 1.5 percent being homosexual (knock off the euphemism of "gay") that means that either a majority of the US population is in the military or a disproportionate number of homosexuals are in the military. I doubt either is the case.

Eric said...

Well, Gerry - let's do the math (something you could have done yourself, by the way).

In 2010 there were 1,431,000 people on active duty in the US military, with another 848,000 in the National Guard. Using the low end of your range, 1.2%, and assuming that the military is representative of the US population at large, that means there are approximately 23,000 homosexuals (to use the clinical term that you prefer) actively serving in the US military. I guess then that it's correct to say that "thousands of gay people in the military were forced into the closet".

By the way, 13,000 homosexual military personnel have been discharged from the US armed forces since DADT was instated in 1993. That would be thousands.

Gerry said...

Eric you are right - as per usual :) What I was missing was the number of people in the military as my guestimate was way too low.