Thursday, September 27, 2012

Part Two: Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

Why I Plan to Vote Democratic: Part Two

This is the second in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in that particular blog.

I am grateful to Susan who told her own story in a Comment, and to all those who sent their stories to me by email. One of those stories, in which a friend told about his families roots in creating the Underground Railroad but how subsequent generations forgot that with some even joining the KKK. I thought the most important thing he said was this:

“For me, the question is not what did you inherit but what in that inheritance did you learn not to take for granted and what must be handed on with intentionality.” 

One of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic is the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell": 
"Don't ask, don't tell" was the official United States policy on homosexuals serving in the military from December 21, 1993 to September 20, 2011. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. The restrictions were mandated by United States federal law.
While the policy, passed under President Clinton, was intended to protect gays and lesbians in the Armed Services, it avoided the fundamental issue of why gays and lesbians needed to hide their sexual orientation. The law itself was a form of discrimination. Gays and bisexuals were allowed to serve openly in the armies of all our NATO allies, except for the U.S. and Turkey. 

During his campaign for the presidency, Obama pledged to end the law. I would like for him to have issued an executive order on the day he became President but it had become federal law. The legislation had to be changed. 

The resistance in Congress was overwhelmingly Republican. Whether it was because they bought into homophobic fears or whether they opposed it because President Obama supported its repeal, I don't know. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell said that of the Republican agenda, 
"The single most imortant thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
 On every piece of legislation put before Congress, I suppose the reason for Republican opposition and obstruction must be qualified by McConnell's statement. What important legislation has been opposed and thwarted simply because Republicans want to defeat Obama? 

In my view, whatever the reasons for Republican obstruction on the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Thanks to Obama who carefully shepherded this effort through the Pentagon and Congress, the Democratic members of both chambers, a handful of Republicans, and no thanks to the Republican Party, on September 20, 2011 the shameful policy was ended. 

Change didn't come as fast as I wanted, but I think the President, who I sometimes gratefully consider our "Community Organizer in Chief," got the policy repealed in the proper way. 

For me, the issue was a no brainer, but I know that for many it was not. I like to think that those who opposed this issue (as well as other gay rights issues) simply do not have a friend or family member who daily feel the sting of such discrimination. 

Some may say that the accomplishment by Obama is a not major issue. I rank it right up there with President Truman's 1948 Executive Order 9981 to end racial discrimination in the armed forces. 

Because the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is change that I can believe in, it is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic. What about you?

- Milo

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