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Reflecting On Ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

September 20, 2011

I have never been in the military, or any desire to be.  Though I had no personal stake in the anti-gay policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ I felt very compelled to give my voice for the rights of those who did want to serve in the military, and were denied the right based on some very outdated and rather perplexing reasons.

In 1993 I bought the book “Conduct Unbecoming” by Randy Shilts which championed the cause of allowing gay men and women to openly serve their nation in the military.   For me it was an illuminating read because the military as an institution was not something I was much aware of other than the news reports of budget over-runs or international implications of  armed actions that the nation was engaged in.  

Randy Shilts used history as his guide to make a most compelling case as to why discrimination against gay men and women had to end.  The book was filled with celebrated members of the military who were gay. 

One example that stood out for me was the  fact the famed center during the creation of the  American Army during the Revolutionary War, Friedrich  von Steuben, was gay. 

That book was the start for many, I suspect, across the nation who needed an education on the policies that had to be thrown out in order to move our country forward.  That educational process resulted in the news today from the United States Army.

Today marks the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.


After 17 years in which the lives of thousands were turned up-side down by being discharged from active service due to being gay, the bigoted policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is now over.  Then there are the countless others who were denied their rights for many long decades before DADT was hatched as an idea.

As we reflect back on this struggle we see the same old lessons confirmed once again.

Mainly that political courage is a necessity among our elected officials, and that brave people who put a face to bigotry will prevail in their fight to have justice handed down.

Conversely when politicians lack spine and moral courage, or when those who are sidelined and marginalized lack the will to fight back bad things can happen.

President Bill Clinton gets high marks for many aspects of his two terms in the White House.  While he promised on the campaign trail in 1992 that he would swing hard against anti-gay bigotry in the military if elected, he ultimately allowed for a more moderate policy path to prevail.  That proved to be a blunder.  Allowing the military to continue to dictate the path forward for nearly two decades made no one happy, and frankly ruined lives in the process.

One can talk endlessly about the pragmatic approach that needed to have been taken to allow gay men and women to be treated equally for all these past decades.

But today as we look back can anyone honestly say that the wait served any purpose?  Did the sun not rise this morning, the stars and stripes not rise high on military bases around the globe?  Did not all those who fought for the end of DADT say that all would be fine within the military if bigotry were rejected in favor of inclusion?

America now needs to concentrate on the next big question when it comes to gay rights in America.

When will legal marriage be made available to all?

Walls look mighty big when confronted, but as we have seen they can fall when the better angels of the nation take up the cause and fight injustice.

Today we rejoice with the end of  DADT.

But we need to continue the fight for the rest of an unfinished agenda for equal rights for gay men and women.


  1. Craig permalink
    December 25, 2011 3:28 PM

    DADT, If there was ever a good reason for ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, let me tell you about one resent experience. And it has nothing to do with gay~anything, other then in name.

    Our county applied for a Federal, State, and City grant to rebuild and add 2,200 more square foot to our 43 year old aeroport terminal building in Door county, Wisconsin to the tune of $779,000 and change.

    The Federal funds come from part of President Obama’s first infusion of stimulus money. So much of this funding was from the Feds that the contract falls within some ridiculous rules that a certain percentage of the laborers on the job site needed to be minorities.

    The builder ran local adds for minorities, and had zero responses. Going 40 miles South to Green Bay the same adds ran in multiple news papers. Still no responses. With no minorities to be had the contract came to a screeching halt.

    To get going again the builder had to document to the Federal, and State boys, his efforts to hire minorities for our six month estimate time of construction.

    Once this was satisfied the funds flowed. If there was ever a time for don’t ask don’t tell, it was here. More bad then good. Stop over governing.

  2. smokey3 permalink
    September 20, 2011 2:26 PM

    You missed out on a lot by not having been in the military – the teamwork, training, education and so on… However, “Dont ask – Don’t tell” was not something that would have enlightened you in any way had you served. Bigots abound, but have never provided anything positive for their fellow man.

    Although the “powers that be” can’t get beyond being anal-retentive and bigoted over the gay issue…There have been Gays in the military since the military began, who did a great and heroic service to the U.S. and in other more enlightened countries are welcome to serve (and at no detriment to those militaries).

    The stupid don’t ask – don’t tell was a travesty… It’s time for the President and the Military Administrators to wake up and smell the coffee – and let these young men and women serve- and there needs to be a fast track for thiose who were kicked out and want to re-enlist.

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