The Log Cabin Republicans have put the best face on the Republican Party's 2008 platform, which won't leave many American gays and lesbians smiling.
They write on their blog, " . . . rather than squabble over the platform (which we could have done), we decided to go to Minneapolis-St. Paul at the Republican National Convention and show LGBT Americans in a positive light. We're going there to engage in conversations with delegates and Republicans of all stripes. Some will agree with us. Others won't. One thing we know for sure is that we're going to the RNC with a positive message about gay and lesbian Americans. We think that's important."
I think that's important, too. Very important. But however "symbolic" platform language may be, and even though every candidate need not support every plank in it, a party's platform is still a statement on where a party stands on the issues of our time. The Republican Party Platform, which convention delegates approved unanimously on Monday, certainly does not advance the position Servicemembers Legal Defense Network advocates: the repeal of the statute known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the passage of H.R. 1246. When that inevitably happens -- and it is inevitable -- our country will finally acknowledge what is already a fact -- that 65,000 gays and lesbians are now fighting in the armed forces of the United States -- and allow them to serve openly without fear of discovery, discharge, and the loss of their benefits.
We support this language in the Republican Party Platform: "Military priorities and mission must determine personnel policies." You can't have a man or woman in the infantry piloting a plane over Afghanistan, or a medic working as a navigator, etc., etc. And we strongly agree with the next sentence: "Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield."
It's the sentence that follows that saddens and angers me: "To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America's Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service."
Our servicemembers need "protection" from roving bands of gays and lesbians? Let's get real, people. Our servicemembers need protection from hostile fire, not from the 65,000 gays and lesbians that every soldier, sailor, and airman knows are serving by their sides now with no apparent damage to esprit de corps and unit cohesion.
And homosexuality incompatible with military service? Ask Israel, whose military generally gets pretty high ratings. Ask our NATO allies who've managed to find homosexuality compatible enough. Many of them are actively recruiting gays and lesbian to help fill their ranks. This kind of language, in the platform of any political party in 2008, is offensive, insulting, and out of sync with what polls show most Americans, military and civilian, believe: that sexual orientation is not a factor when evaluating a person's qualifications to serve in the military.
Fortunately for gays and lesbians everywhere, for Americans in general and for SLDN in particular, the majority of Republicans do not go along with the language of their own platform. A July Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64 percent of Republicans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. I wish I could say that the party's candidate for president was among that 64 percent, but I can't.
John McCain's currently beleaguered choice for vice president, Governor Sarah Palin, has taken no public stand on DADT that I know of, but it's hard to be optimistic. She supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment barring marriage equality. She has been governor less than two years but has already supported stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers. From that record, it doesn't sound as if she'll be advocating the repeal of DADT - unlike her fellow Republicans who are co-sponsors of H.R. 1246, notably Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Maryland's Wayne Gilchrest, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
Like my friends in the Log Cabin Republicans, I'm not giving up on the Republicans in Congress. I'm not giving up on the Republicans at all. It's clear from the Washington Post/ABC News poll that the language in the platform does not represent the views of the majority of Republicans - or the majority of Americans, for that matter. Party leaders just have to catch up with party members.
"Don't Ask Don't Tell" is not an issue of one party versus another. It's a matter of military readiness and what's best for the country. The armed forces need all the qualified men and women they can get. It's a matter of fairness. Bigotry is bipartisan, but so are civil rights. It comes down finally to military readiness and fairness. What's fair for me is fair for you. Most of us, Republicans as well as Democrats, gays as well as straights, see that.