There are a number of nations whose military allows gay soldiers to serve openly with straight soldiers. The obvious reason is that being gay does not make someone a sex-crazed rapist whose only interest is to cause irreparable moral harm to other people by giving them gay. Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans realize this. In fact, the U.S. military largely realizes this, dismissing fewer gay soldiers per year than they did prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; they may as well be saying, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of hatred for gays out there and, really, that’s our motivation, but when it comes down to it, we need good service members.’
Fortunately, in addition to the other recent positive rulings, a judge has declared the military must reinstate a lesbian soldier it dismissed under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. He cites the lack of constitutionality of the law due to its uselessness.
“The application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to Major Margaret Witt does not significantly further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion,” he wrote.
If it did any of these things, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have some validity within its scope. Unfortunately for all the bigots out there, judges are increasingly recognizing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of military members.
But I think it’s worth pointing out that calling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a failure would be a mistake. The law was a compromise that marked a major step in terms of equal rights for gays. This is in a similar vein to when Jefferson put an end to the slave trade in 1808. That point was pivotal in the effort to end slavery, but it was also virtually all that could be done politically. Learning from his earlier days in Virginia politics, he knew any effort to end slavery was premature in his lifetime, lest he lose all political capital and ability to govern in any other area. A similar tale can be told of Clinton. Outright ending the unjustified discrimination against gays in the military was virtually impossible at the time (and it’s still proving to be difficult). But by getting the best deal he could for gay service members, Clinton made the first big step in ending the discrimination they face in the military. The fortunate difference here is that it won’t take us 57 years to reach Clinton’s goal.