It's difficult for the truth to be victorious these days. The truth can present itself, stand tall and proud and provide stacks of evidentiary support, but as far as turning the tide in order to bring about evolution in government, truth doesn't appear to be a deciding factor.
Aside from same sex marriage and gay rights in general, one of the hottest topics, as it's currently being debated in Congress, is the possible repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Don't Ask Don't Tell restricts the military from efforts to discover or reveal gay and lesbian service members, but at the same time, provides for the expulsion of soldiers who are openly gay or lesbian. The reason given is that openly serving gays and lesbians results in "an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability". The bill was introduced in 1993, as a compromise to then President Bill Clinton's plan to allow gay and lesbians to serve openly within the armed forces.
Opinions are easily accessed on this vital LGBT civil rights issue. Everyone is speaking out about it. We also have many foreign countries who allow gays and lesbians to serve openly from which we can draw conclusions. Or shall I say, we SHOULD be able to draw conclusions. Just as we've learned in the battle for marriage equality, the United States has a way of refusing comparison to other nations, as well as a knack for re-crafting the truth of those countries in order to provide the "Armageddon" syndrome much of the populace of the US has come to feed on.
While the opinions of those serving in the military, the soldiers on the ground, tend to be favorable for their fellow gay and lesbian troops, officers in the military are providing opposing opinions when reporting to Congress.
On Tuesday, February 23rd, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told Congress. "We just don't know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness" Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz stated the same. Schwartz went so far as to say his concern was based on "little current scholarship on this issue".
Is this just a sound bite? Or does the General refuse to reconcile with truth and history on this matter?
In 1993, for instance, a report by the National Defense Research Institute, Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment, concluded that "circumstances could exist under which the ban on homosexuals could be lifted with little or no adverse consequences for recruitment and retention."
Also in 1993, the American Psychological Association, along with five other National Professional Organizations, stated that "The research data show that there is nothing about lesbians and gay men that makes them inherently unfit for military service, and there is nothing about heterosexuals that makes them inherently unable to work and live with gay people in close quarters." They went on to say that heterosexual personnel are able to put aside prejudices and work together with gays and lesbians, as well as confirming that gays and lesbians are just as capable of military service as heterosexuals.
A 2006 study, Opinions of Military Personnel on Sexual Minorities in the Military, found that around 75% of service members polled said they felt comfortable around gays and lesbians and would join the military even if it was all inclusive. The survey concluded that there seemed to be overwhelming responses of tolerance and understanding, while adding there are obstacles to overcome.
And as reported in the New York Times a new study, “Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer", to be released this week, concludes that repealing the policy would not be disruptive, or cause large resignations or increased harassment. The study is based on what has happened in other countries where gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly. It also concludes that there is no justification for a lengthy, drawn out implementation, as most countries making the change did so in a few months time with little or no disruptive effect.
General Raymond Odierno, the top commanding officer in Iraq, said earlier this week that the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" has been a "non-issue" to him.
Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stated he believes the law should be repealed, since it forces gay soldiers to compromise their integrity.
The following graphic shows the effects of DADT on gay and lesbian soldiers...
In the meantime, Senator Joe Lieberman is said to be preparing a bill which would call for the repeal of DADT. Most, however, believe that a bill on its own has much less chance of success than one that is included in the Defense Authorization bill. That bill is expected to pass easily given its fundamental purpose of funding the troops.
President Obama has supported the repeal of DADT all the way back through his candidacy for the office. After his election however, Obama's administration has argued in defense of the policy in court, citing a duty to enforce laws currently on the books. In his most recent State of The Union address, Obama stated he will work with Congress to "finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates agrees with the President that the ban should be overturned, but urges a slow, methodical approach, resulting in a study expected to take until the end of this year and then perhaps years to institute a reversal of the policy. It seems everything our government promises to do, with the exception of actually starting a war, takes years and years to implement.
The main concerns of military officers unsupportive of the repeal, is the disruption it would bring to a military engaged in war. As far back as I can remember, those opposing a repeal of DADT have fallen on the argument that it would be too difficult to maintain order amidst a majority of troops who would refuse to shower with gays, sleep with gays and even suffer from stress due to the fact they are forced to accept gays and lesbians as their equal. Basically officers in the military are telling us that a soldier's personal beliefs would trump discipline and order, leading to chaos.
When has the military made this ridiculous claim before? At least a couple of times, before women were allowed to serve and before black Americans were allowed to serve. They used the exact same line of rhetoric in those instances and of course, those claims were found to be baseless. What these military leaders are overlooking in the case of gays and lesbians serving openly is the very thing they never overlook in other situations of possible dissent among the troops. The very fact that troops are subject to orders. As we've all heard, the military is not a democracy. Troops must comply with the rules and regulations of the military or they're cut from the force. It's black and white. Soldiers don't have any power in deciding their behaviors and actions, and they know that. They expect to fall in line and to adhere to military regulation. Are we now to believe that the idea of serving with openly gay and lesbian soldiers is so disruptive that military officers will waive rules and regulations, that this is the one instance in which they will allow the soldiers to make up their minds for themselves?
Of course not. If DADT is repealed, it destined to have little effect on military control and readiness. Just the fact that many high ranking military officials have said as much prove that it's true. And given the enormous amount of courage it takes for lifelong military officials to say it won't make a difference, proves that those who are stating the opposite are doing so for other reasons.
So with the truth more than readily available and apparent to anyone paying attention, the real question is now the same as it always is with government. Will they evolve? So far, Obama's Presidency is riddled with promises which have not been fulfilled, on all sorts of issues. Is it just too soon to judge his leadership under a microscope. Maybe, given what he's faced with from the last administration. But maybe not. At some point things have to break. At some point we need a President who is focused on doing what's right, rather than what's safe to win a second term.
As for Congress, that's even more complicated. We have a government broken by career politicians. Politicians, every single one of them, who lie to get elected and lie to stay elected, who promise and almost never deliver. We have a government that has operated so inefficiently for so long without any danger of reprisal. And we currently have a Supreme Court that has no interest in issuing rulings based on the Constitution, but controlled by a majority who's only interest is to maintain the status quo and refuse to evolve. With their recent ruling which takes the restraints off corporations in terms of politics, it's only going to get a lot worse, before, if ever, it may get better.
We may get a repeal of DADT, at some point. LGBT Americans may get equal rights, at some point. But we'll still be controlled by an incompetent government, filled with millionaires and egos that barely see that we even exist.