Editorial: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal anniversary justifies repeal
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
September 20 marked the one-year anniversary of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Despite worries to the contrary, a clearheaded review of this repeal in action shows it has proven beneficial to the military, to human rights, and to the nation at large.
The original policy, implemented in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, had disallowed open homosexuals from serving in the United States military. Arguments against repeal were widespread and often vicious. Many politicians and military leaders vocalized beliefs that repeal would damage unit morale and cohesion, despite international evidence from other nations to the contrary. Still others dropped all pretenses and directly stated opposition on the basis of homophobia. The votes in Congress were enough to secure passage but were by no means overwhelming victories: 58.9%-41.1% in the House and 65.6%-34.4% in the Senate. Arizona Senator John McCain – the 2008 Republican nominee for President – lamented it was “a sad day” in the history of our country.
A recent New York Times article catalogued exactly what negative dramatic shifts occurred in the year since: almost nothing. “Gay service members say they feel relief they no longer have to live secret lives,” the article wrote. “Pentagon officials say that recruiting, retention and overall morale have not been affected. None of the dire predictions of opponents, including warnings of a mass exodus of active duty troops, have occurred.”
This shift is exemplified in the opinions of the Republican standard bearers for the presidential ticket this time around. Romney, asked last December by the Des Moines Register newspaper in Iowa, stated: “That’s already occurred. I’m not planning on reversing that at this stage.”
Perhaps even more surprising was Paul Ryan’s identical shift. Interview by a Florida NBC affiliated last week, Paul Ryan stated: “I talked to a lot of good friends of mine who are combat leaders in the theater, and they just didn’t think the timing of this was right to do this when our troops were in the middle of harm’s way in combat. Now that it’s done, we should not reverse it. I think that would be a step in the wrong direction because people have already disclosed themselves. I think this issue is past us. It’s done. And I think we need to move on.” And Ryan voted against repeal as a Congressman in 2010.
Think about that. This is the age of political hyper-polarization, with the National Journal recently calculating that between Democrats and Republicans, this is the least-compromising House ever and the second-least-compromising Senate. In an age where the two parties seem to agree on almost nothing, they agree on this.
Despite McCain’s near-apocalyptic warnings, from a contemporary vantage point we can see that repealing the misguided policy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” did in fact mark a happy day.