Last night, I watched Lt. Dan Choi and Gen. Wesley Clark face off against Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis on Larry King Live.
The topic was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), but the subject at hand was how America deals with minorities. Just as I saw during the Prop. 8 trial, Mr. Perkins raised the shibboleths of fear and division in an America that he apparently no longer loves.
What has DADT to do with same-sex marriage? In effect, everything. For nearly a year, Lt. Choi has been the picture of the American patriot, a West Point graduate who is fluent in Arabic and who served our nation in Iraq. Dan is not a political animal; he is passionate, determined and simply desires to honor the nation that gave his parents and him the opportunity to live freely. When Dan "came out" on the Rachel Maddow show last March, the military machinery slowly, inexorably came after him, determined to remove this highly trained, valued soldier from their midst for being himself.
Last June, 162,741 Courage Campaign members signed letters of support that Dan presented at his Army discharge hearing and that are now part of Dan's official record. Fortunately, Dan has not yet been dismissed, though his discharge is under review. (We currently have nearly 500,000 letters of support for Dan to Speaker Pelosi, President and Obama and the US Army.)
While yesterday's congressional hearing was remarkable and welcome in many ways, we do not need to wait to save his job. Will Dan still be fired? How many other Dans will be fired while the military studies this issue again?
We saw Tony Perkins taking talking points from the Prop. 8 campaign that were revealed at the trial. Mr. Perkins threatened on the Larry King show that "we might have to return to the draft" if we allow gays and lesbians to serve openly because so many soldiers would either quit the military or not enlist. Mr. Perkins went further, saying that President Obama is putting the country at risk because the Joint Chiefs have been asked to review the DADT policy in a time of war. Finally, Mr. Perkins recalled having showered together with 80 men while he was in the military and said he'd feel threatened by a gay man showering there with him.
Okay, got that? If we let those 66,000 or so gays and lesbians who now serve in the armed forces (according to UCLA's Williams Institute) stop lying and be open, we'll have to reinstate the draft, we'll lose wars and Mr. Perkins' own heterosexual identity -- which is apparently quite weak -- will be threatened. In other words, the gays will eat you and destroy our country.
Mr. Perkins played a key role in the Prop. 8 trial. He used many of these same words when he said on a video that was used to scare the religious right into supporting Prop. 8. At that time, he said that if gays and lesbians marry, we will have more incest, pedophilia and eventually polygamy. He said that. And his other allies in the fight to separate Americans from each other joined right in.
That was the basis of their defense in the Prop. 8 trial: If gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, America will collapse. And now they are extending that argument about marriage to the military.
Mr. Perkins admitted on Larry King Live last night that "times have changed." What he did not admit is that he hates these times and really hates America. He craves a return to a mythical time in this country when white men ruled, when wives did as they were told and when his country club only had people in it who looked like him.
We saw at the Prop. 8 trial that people like Tony Perkins and Ron Prentice have used fear and stereotype for decades to prevent gays and lesbians from being equal citizens, blocking them from the institutions of marriage and the military.
We will not allow these libels to continue to fly across the airwaves unchecked. That's precisely why President Obama was right to demand that DADT be overturned, though he waited longer than many would like. Meanwhile, our national security suffers as Arabic linguists like Dan Choi lose their jobs or don't even join up. That's why Courage Campaign http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/DontWait" target="_hplink">is asking Senator Levin to add the DADT repeal now to the defense budget bill.
The time has come for the courts to rule that discrimination is un-American. As lives continue to be ruined across our country, that decision to make full equality the law of our land can't come a moment too soon. And the time has long past for us to realize that Tony Perkins and his shrinking band of hysteria is as fantastical as the Mad Hatter's swirling tea cups at Disneyland.
P.S. This in from Dan: "We are conducting infantry training to include rifle marksmanship, combat assault drills and combat life saver qualifications. It is absolutely mission critical to train on these and I could not think of a better way to contribute to mission readiness than to attend this training, especially after the commitments and words we heard in the senate yesterday." I suppose Tony Perkins thinks Dan's service will lead to a draft or to the End of America.