Good. It’s over and we don’t need to hear any more about it. The repeal of the U.S. military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a great victory for the gay community and for civil rights. And it’s nice to know that human decency prevails. Every American should be happy that a nation recently beset by dementia had a lucid moment.
Done celebrating? Good, because now it’s time to reveal the repeal for what it is: a small political victory packaged as a big progressive win by a president who needs to regain the trust of his liberal base for the 2012 campaign. Let’s analyze.
Since DADT went into effect homosexuals have been allowed to serve in the military. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
*there are 66,000 homosexuals currently on active duty;
*there are over 1 million gay U.S. military veterans; and
*there have been over 14,000 “homosexual separations” (re: discharges)
So this wasn’t discrimination where entire classes of people are deprived of their civil rights like, say, blacks during segregation, or the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Homosexuals could choose not to serve. And if they did serve, they could still be gay. They just couldn’t tell anyone in the service.
Also, in practice DADT affected a small portion of the gay population. I haven’t found any reliable statistic on the gay population in the U.S., but let’s make the very safe assumption that not every homosexual serves in the military, or wants to. If we assume the percentage of the gay population serving in the military mirrors that of the straight population (using 2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates), roughly one percent of gays serve. Repeal of DADT is dwarfed in magnitude by, say, enfranchising women, or racial desegregation.
Furthermore, repeal was popular with the public, endorsed by military brass and supported by most troops. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 67% of Americans favored repeal. http://www.gallup.com/... And a military study of the effects of repeal concluded, "that allowing gay men and women to serve openly...presents a low risk to the military's effectiveness," and “70 percent of surveyed service members believe that the impact on their units would be positive, mixed or of no consequence at all.” http://www.nytimes.com/...
The right of gays to serve their country openly is long overdue, but this wasn’t a peaceful protest met with police batons and fire hoses that defined the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The military was ready to accept gays openly in their ranks and so was the public.
The final point is that repeal was going to happen anyway - if not legislatively, than judicially. This past September a Federal District Court Judge in California held DADT unconstitutional. http://www.nytimes.com/...
The truth is the biggest fight against repeal was coming from Obama himself. As commander-in-chief he could have issued a declaration not to enforce DADT (although he’s constitutionally bound to uphold the law, every president has to establish priorities). He chose not to. And he could have allowed judicial repeal, but when the District Court judge issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement, the administration fought successfully to lift it. He could have done either of these and still pushed for legislative repeal as insurance. He didn’t. So the victory looked much harder than it actually was because Obama was originally fighting for the other side.
So let’s not give Obama undeserved credit. I’m not hatin’. It’s a nice win, but he’s disappointed liberals in so many ways it’s important to keep this in context. Obama’s been accused of having a glass jaw. This win doesn’t change that. If this was a prize fight, it wasn’t Buster Douglas shocking the world by dropping Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship. It was more like a middleweight champ carrying a tomato-can five rounds before deciding to put him down for the count. The ending was inevitable. The payoff was guessing which round.
Progressives have to keep the pressure on Obama and keep pressure on their representatives to keep pressure on Obama. Let’s not be deceived into believing he’s suddenly become the Man of Steel. He may be wearing a cape today, but I’m not expecting him to fly tomorrow.