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Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Don't Pretend Tuesday's Vote Isn't About Discrimination

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Voting for discrimination is often designed to look like something else. It is a 'please respect the process' vote, or a 'we need more information' vote. This is a good strategy; it works because it is very difficult to challenge positions that seem reasonable. Not everyone who votes for or against something is prejudiced. Surely there is no reason to rush; more information is good. In many ways it is the "politics as usual" that has so often turned the public off from engaging in the democratic process.

It is not lightly, therefore, that I say unequivocally that the Senate's scheduled vote at 2:15pm next Tuesday, September 21, is not a vote on cloture. This is not a vote on proceeding to debate the FY2011 Defense Authorization bill. It is a vote to continue legal discrimination, which bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly and honestly in the military. This vote tests whether it will continue to be the policy of the United States to fire good troops solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

For Congress, this is may be its final act on 'don't ask, don't tell. If the sixty votes are not there on Tuesday, it is likely that this law will never come up for a legislative vote again. In the year(s) ahead, the courts or the Executive branch will be forced to weigh in and remedy the law.

In twenty-five countries which allow openly gay and lesbian troops, sexual orientation is far less important than national security. A historical look at the debate on gays in the military in the United States tells us one undeniable fact; that this is about the "gay thing." There is no getting around this reality. As Americans, we should be ashamed that our elected officials will defend discrimination and use tax payer dollars to purposefully fire linguists, doctors, infantry and helicopter pilots who are doing a good job.

Senator McCain has stated that this is not about opposing or supporting repeal, this is about the process. There should be more time, input and information before rushing to act. He is being very clear that this is not about discrimination; this is about respecting the troops. Respectfully, Senator, that's a load of bull. Nearly fourteen thousand troops have been fired for being gay or lesbian, 14,000. Keeping good troops is good policy and good process.

Tuesday's vote will mean many things to each side. To the gay and lesbian community, I argue that this is the most significant vote in the history of our movement. It is an up or down vote to keep discriminating or to stop discriminating. To Senator McCain and opponents of repeal, actually, I think it means the same thing.