Separate but Equal?

When Major Alan Rogers was killed by an Iraqi insurgent’s roadside bomb in 2008, the U.S. Army lost a gifted intelligence officer and dedicated soldier. Rogers made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but the same military he devoted his life to also compelled him to live a lie for nearly twenty years. Just because he was gay.

Unlike their counterparts in Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom, homosexuals are not allowed to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. President Clinton attempted to rectify this inequity in 1993 but the backlash from the Right was so severe that he was forced to compromise, leading to the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The time has come to repeal this insufficient half-measure and honor the contribution of courageous, gay Americans like Major Rogers by inviting them to come out of the closet.

Preparations for this breakthrough are currently underway. On Tuesday, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee,

“I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens…For me personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

It’s refreshing to hear this sentiment expressed by our nation’s top military brass, especially since not everyone shares Mullen’s broad-minded perspective. Earlier this week, the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol fiercely defended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in an editorial,

“There is no basic right to serve in the military. That’s why forms of discrimination we would ban in civilian life are permitted… Advocates of repeal will say sexual orientation is irrelevant to military performance… But this is not clearly true given the peculiar characteristics of military service.”

Not only is Kristol’s argument eerily similar to the rationale for defending segregation during the 1950’s, it’s also very misleading.

Brave men and women like Major Rogers, Marine-of-the-Year recipient Sgt. Justin Elzie and countless others have already proven him wrong with their exemplary service. On the contrary, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is clearly costing us some of our best and brightest soldiers.

Kristol goes on to claim that Democrats have, “No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions.”

He would do well to recall the certain, simple, self-evident proposition that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This idea, so eloquently expressed in our Declaration of Independence, forms the very cornerstone of our republic. Mr. Kristol is fond of using the term “American patriots” to describe his conservative colleagues. I suggest he examine what that term actually means.

For instance, contrast Kristol’s words with those of Leonard Matlovich, a decorated Vietnam veteran and Air Force sergeant who challenged the military’s stance on gays back in 1975, “It was just great pride to be an American, to know I’m oppressed but able to stand up there and say so.”

Now, you tell me, which one of these Americans is more patriotic?

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