>Repeal DOMA and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

>I’ve never really blogged about gay rights extensively as I have about racism and sexism. As a passionate supporter, I fault myself for not being as vocal as I should have about this issue that’s important to me.

Before my college days, I never had the chance to build close friendships with gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender folks; even those who were questioning themselves. Sure, I was supportive of gay rights; I was never the one to engage in the “queer” and “homo” labels on people. I never found these lifestyles repulsive or a sin. Yet, I wasn’t the “fag hag.”

While growing up, I could never understand the overt hatred many people had towards those with different sexual orientations other than heterosexual. I could never understand why, as the Bible would say, it’s a sin. I never understood why the infamous Leviticus scripture had been taken so literally.

My college years gave me great exposure to a wide variety of people: not only was I exposed to various races and ethnic groups, I met and became friends with people who were gay, lesbian, bisexual or even questioning. It wasn’t until then I began to truly think about how their lives were different than mine. As a straight female, there was no stigma about my sexual preference. No one ever told me I was abnormal or a freak. My parents never threatened to kick me out of the house or force me into some “de-gay Christian camp” to straighten (no pun intended) me out. My classmates never called me fag, homo, queer, dyke, etc. at school. I never had counselors tell me I was exaggerating the bullying claims and maybe I shouldn’t draw too much attention to myself. I never had anyone kick me out of school just because I decided to wear clothing that wasn’t suited to my gender.

I never had a chance to face these inherent differences until my time in college. Then, I became frustrated. I became frustrated at the world and specifically this country. I joined the local Lambda chapter and began going to Atlanta pride weekend festivities (which, this year, will be my third year attending). I began researching and reading the stories of the GLBT community. I began listening. I began challenging the norm; I began openly expression my support of GLBT rights.

Along with states tripping over themselves to pass constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, I believe there are two pieces of legislation that this country needs to abandon if we are willing to move forward in the quest for equality: the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

As we all know, the federal DOMA was passed by Congress in 1996 and defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws, and provides that states need not recognize a marriage from another state if it is between persons of the same sex.” (Source) According to DOMA Watch:

Thirty-seven states have their own Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs), while 2 more states have strong language that defines marriage as one man and one woman. There are 30 states that have constitutional amendments protecting traditional marriage, including the three states (Arizona, California, and Florida) that passed constitutional amendments in November 2008.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was implemented in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and “prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being gay. Thus far the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops.” (Source) Recent reports from the Department of Defense states that women, ironically, have been more likely to be expelled from the military under this policy. According to that Associated Press article, women accounted for 15 percent of all active duty and reserve members of the military, but “more than one-third of the 619 people discharged last year because of their sexual orientation.”

The disparity was particularly striking in the Air Force, where women represented 20 percent of all personnel but 61 percent of those expelled. That is a significant jump from the previous year and marks the first time women in any branch of the military constituted a majority of those dismissed under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” researchers said.

The arguments for these two pieces of discriminatory practices are always the same: we need to “protect” morale in the military; we need to protect the institution of marriage; this country, in its Judeo-Christian principles, must make sure marriage remains between a man and a woman.

Complete hogwash. Protecting morale in the military has nothing to do with who a person chooses to sleep with. I can name numerous ways the Department of Defense can protect morale:

-Paying soldiers a decent, livable wage; providing their families with an adequate means of surviving.

-Providing adequate health and mental care for soldiers when they return from combat.

-Refrain from using pie-in-the-sky, Utopian methods of explaining what new recruits will be responsible for once they sign up for service. Nothing like getting a person’s hopes up before reality sets in.

-Don’t lie to soldiers about the reasons for war. Nothing can make a soldier question his or her’s reasons for joining the military than fighting an unjust war. Just ask a few who decided to desert to Canada to avoid what they called an “unjust” war. Or, if you’re not convinced (or think CBS and Dan Rather had it out for the Bush administration from the beginning), here’s another site.

As for defending marriage, how about we quit promoting marriage as the solution to all our problems? Had a child out of wedlock? Marry the father so the child can grow up in a stable, two-parent (normal) home. Unable to support yourself? Well, go to college, obtain your MRS degree, and live happily ever after in marital (normal) bliss.

The right-wing has done a masterful job in promoting marriage between a man and a woman as the only, true (American) holy matrimony. If we allow gays to get married, they reason, then we will have to allow pedophiles to marry children, for people to marry their animals, etc. It’s just a natural progression, they conclude. If we allow gays to get married, we will be legitimizing an alternative lifestyle (subculture?) that, they believe, will lead to child molestation, child rape and bestiality.

There’s a Facebook group that protests the anti-gay marriage stance by declaring they won’t get married until everyone has the right to do so. While I don’t think that’s feasible, I do think that message can make waves. Everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, has at least one gay family member that’s out of the closet or not. Everyone, in my opinion, has a stake in the issues of marriage and the anti-gay military policy.

We as heterosexuals may believe these two issues don’t affect us. Well, they do. Because we all know someone who has been directly or indirectly affected by DOMA or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Repealing both of these laws is not only the right thing to do; it’s the feasible thing to do. They have served no purpose than to appeal to this nation’s extreme Christian fundamentalists, who we all know don’t have everyone’s best interest at heart. They not only alienate our fellow citizens, they also make it hard for people to make a living. They create a nation of second-class citizens, only wishing they had the same opportunities as their hetero counterparts. It’s time we turn their wishes into reality.

We need to get rid of these divisive, discriminatory practices and ensure our fellow GLBT citizens they are entitled to marriage (note I didn’t say domestic partnership) and all the benefits we heterosexuals all take for granted. We need to make sure these people aren’t ostracized for being who they are. We need to make sure our military, who is in desperate need of recruits, doesn’t shun one for being gay or lesbian. We need to make sure that our GLBT counterparts have equal opportunity to the pursuit of the American dream (whatever that is) and happiness we heterosexuals feel entitled to.

As it stands, the GLBT community has no protection from persecution, from being “blacklisted,” from being exiled into the fringes of society. And, as people who have a stake in these matters, we can not and should not expect our country to continue on this path of inequality and discrimination against this community that’s contributed so much to our society.