A New-Found Voice

As of this morning, it is official… Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military policy that refused to allow gay servicemen and women to serve openly for their country, is a dead and a part of the history books.  It is a new day for our brave men and women in our armed forces who are constantly putting their lives on the line for our country and for our freedoms.  And though we celebrate the end of this draconian law, we must remind ourselves that despite winning this battle, the conflict that we fight still rages on.

Though our fellow brothers and sisters can now officially be out and proud of who they are, instead of hiding in shame on fear of being discharged, they are still denied the same benefits that their heterosexual colleagues enjoy.  If a gay couple is legally married, they are still not allowed to get a pay raise or an increase in housing allowance… though the straight couple would.  When a gay spouse is deployed, the partner is not given a family separation allowance.  Same-sex partners are denied dependent identification cards, so that if i gay partner is injured, the spouse has no way of gaining access.  (I’m not sure if the Obama administration’s new policy regarding gay partners and hospitals has changed this for military families.)  It also doesn’t allow the gay partner access to the same shops, gas stations, or other recreational facilities that are given to other military spouses.  And here’s the worst of it all… If a gay spouse in killed in the line of duty, the partner is denied survivor’s benefits.

As you can see, though we have won the bigger battle of getting this law repealed, we still have a long road ahead of us with these smaller battles.  We must not let our celebratory mood allow us to forget.  In an issue that pertains to them, gay servicemen and women that are currently serving in our armed forces were forced to keep silent on the very issues that pertained to them.  Now, for the first time, they can speak up loud and clear on these issues and make sure that all the elected officials in Washington can hear their voices and their side of the issue.

There is but one thing that keeps most of these smaller things from disappearing in the same way that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has now done.  It’s the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in which the federal government does not recognize any same-sex union… whether it be gay marriage or a civil union.  It is this draconian law that now needs to be dismantled so that our brave countrymen and women can enjoy all of the same benefits that other military families enjoy.  Let those new voices speak up with the rest of us to end this grave injustice and set our country on the right course.  Even now, the Respect for Marriage Act, the official repeal of DOMA, has been introduced once again in Congress.  Though it is unlikely to pass, yet again, our voices must still be heard, and we welcome the voices of our servicemen and women on this very issue as it does pertain to them, as well.

They say the military is a microcosm of the American public.  It is through changes in military policy that have led the way before.  It was in 1948, that President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 which order the integration of all our armed forces.  (President Truman was able to bypass Congress with the Executive Order since there was no actual federal law that Congress would have to abolish.  It was just a long-standing policy.  This was not the route that President Obama could take as a result of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell being passed by the Clinton administration.)  It was a major step in the civil rights movement.  And as the desegregation of our armed forces took hold, a bigger and better conversation began to evolve.  And though there were still many dark days ahead in the civil rights movement, the military stepped up to start the country on a new path… a trend that I hope continues with today’s news.

These are our the men and women who serve our country both at home and on the front lines.  They deserve our utmost respect.  Still classifying them and treating them as second-class citizens is an abomination and disrespectful.  Without these men and women, the very freedoms we take for granted each day would be in peril.  We in the civilian world fought a fight for them that they could not lend a voice to.  Now, in our ongoing struggle, they have the ability to speak up and add their voice to ours without the fear of being discharged.  The witch-hunt is over, but the quest for our rights is still ongoing.  Though I am saying “Huzzah” to the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I know that it is not the end of the ordeal.  And to all of our armed forces, I say thank you for your commitment and dedication to your country… I salute you.

LINK:  http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/20/opinion/watts-dadt-equality/index.html

VIDEO:  A Gay Soldier Comes Out To His Father

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