On Sept. 20th, 2011, the discriminatory military policy known as Don't Ask Don't Tell, enacted by Congress in 1993, was officially reversed, and gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals are now able to openly serve their country and risk their lives defending the freedoms of this country. But that shouldn't imply that discrimination against these service members has actually ended.
In the mid-1900s people of color were finally allowed to serve equally in the military, although any historian will tell you that the next several years saw intense abuse of these soldiers. Policy does not quickly affect prejudices, and it took the military and the country's hearts a while to catch up to the law. This same reaction is to be expected as DADT is ending.
However, openly gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers also face additional hardships that are unique among changes to other discriminatory military policy changes. While DADT has been repealed, DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act) remains in place. DOMA states that the federal government, including the military, will not recognize same-sex marriages, even when performed in states that allow them. To a married gay or lesbian soldier, that means that their legally-wed spouses are still not eligible for the benefits afforded to heterosexual couples (e.g., disability, health-care, housing and death benefits). President Obama announced this past year that the Department of Defense would no longer defend this antiquated law in courts, but the policy still remains in place until overturned by either Congress or a Presidential Executive Order.
There was a point in my life where military service was something I strongly considered. The allure of that ultimate expression of patriotism, mixed with financial incentives like college-tuition reimbursement, was strong, but in the end I could not rationalize being part of an organization that refused to recognize who I am inside. Even with the announcement of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, I still cannot see a way to serve a country that will deny so much to me and my future partner when they celebrate and encourage others who are no less deserving.
At what point do we draw the line? For many, being mostly equal is enough, and I cannot say that I fault them in any way. But for others like me, there can be no less than fully equal treatment before satisfaction is had. So while I celebrate the ability of our brothers and sisters to no longer hide who they are while serving our country, it cannot be forgotten that equality has yet to be reached.
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