Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Wait On "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

About 10 months into the Obama presidency, and the policy that prevents openly gay personnel from serving in the military still stands. Sure, there are important issues taking priority, like healthcare and the increasing mess in the Middle East, but common sense and decency would seem to dictate that a reversal of this policy would get rushed through the legislative system. Unfortunately, common sense and decency are in short supply in Washington D.C. these days.

A petition was sent to Congress last spring by about 1,000 (homophobic) military officers stating that "We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the all-volunteer force." Apparently, these officers believe that having to serve with - or god forbid, under - an openly homosexual person would constitute a "burden" on our military. Go ahead, Congress, turn your heads while America's bravest get stuck in an unconstitutional quagmire in the desert, but please, please keep the gays away from them! Meanwhile, the Pentagon is looking for ways to continue "humanely" instituting the policy. Sorry Pentagon, there is no way, because it's an inhumane policy. These people are volunteering to protect the rights we believe in, but we are denying them theirs.

My father is a colonel in the United States Army who has served in both Iraq conflicts. I can assure you that whether deployed or on home turf, the least of his worries is the sexual orientation of the people who work for or with him. We insult the intelligence and fortitude of our men and women in uniform if we assume that they will be unable to perform as they are asked to if they have to work with somebody who is openly gay. This repulsive policy has to be repealed, and it has to be repealed now.


Anonymous said...

What's the source of the legal right that's supposedly being impermissibly denied here? We know it's from the constitutional jurisprudence that it's not the First, Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments, which do not conflict with DADT. What then?

Tim Ryan said...

This issue transcends legal or constitutional rights. I'm talking about human rights. The right every individual has to be him/herself.

Tim Ryan said...

However, if you do insist on using Constitutional law to define the rights of human beings, let's take a look at Amendment number 9: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

I'd like to have enough faith in this country to believe that the right to self identity without discrimination is contained within those non-enumerated rights.

Bill said...

Great post! Not only is the DADT policy unfair to our troops, but it hurts our war effort as well. Remember all those Arabic translators that were fired for being gay? That's still going on, as late as this May, we're still losing gay army translators.

Anonymous said...

No. As lefty constitutional guru Larry Tribe notes: "It is a common error, but an error nonetheless, to talk of 'Ninth Amendment rights.' The Ninth Amendment is not a source of rights as such; it is simply a rule about how to read the Constitution." So that doesn't answer the question. If there is a substantive right (human, constitutional or other) that bars DADT, where and how do we locate it? It doesn't help simply to articulate a right you think DADT infringes (e.g. "the right to be yourself" - whatever that means - not that it's even clear that DADT runs afoul of that) and stop there. Otherwise we renounce any basis for distinguishing between valid rights and imagined ones.

Speaking of the Constitution, I like how you slipped in the "unconstitutional quagmire" aside about Iraq. I hope we'll be treated to a caselaw citation to that effect.

As for whether DADT is a wise or productive policy, let a thousand counterarguments bloom. But leave naked assertions of rights out of it.

Tim Ryan said...

The Constitution is a legal document, not an ethical treatise. If you can't see how DADT is a crime against human ethics, than this argument is not worth having. Firing somebody for being openly gay is no different than firing somebody for being black.

As for Iraq, perhaps "unlawful" would have been a better word, as it is in violation of the War Powers Act that was designed specifically to keep us out of conflicts like Iraq.

Anonymous said...

It's true enough that the Constitution is not an ethical treatise. Are you basing the assertion that "DADT is a crime against human ethics" on ethical treatises? Which ones? And for you to say that it's not worth debating if I, like millions of others, can't see how DADT is a crime (a different question, again, from whether it should be maintained) - well, that's fishy. It's not as though your position were axiomatic or even the subject of general agreement.

Regarding the War Powers Act, it's worth noting that every U.S. administration since Nixon's has agreed that the Act is itself unconstitutional, although the question has been more or less skirted by the courts. But leaving that aside, why is the Iraq campaign in violation of the Act? Is there any legal authority to suggest that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 did not satisfy the requirements of the Act?

Anonymous said...

The fact that DADT is bad policy that depletes our military of talented personnel should be all the reason any true "conservative" needs for getting rid of the policy.

Aside from that, the objections are purely bigoted. Unless of course they are still ignorant enough to really believe that being homosexual is a choice... like people would choose a lifestyle that puts them in a minority which is constantly discriminated against. People who think it's okay to fire someone for being gay are just as much of a bigot as anyone who thinks it is appropriate to fire someone because of their race or sex. Period.

-Anonymous (not the bigoted one).