BY JAMES NIMMO
Are America’s gay and lesbian service members better off with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell now on the way to the trash can of prejudice? Are gays and lesbians in civilian life better off without DADT on the books? I’ve been asking myself that question since the vote. Since I can’t say absolutely yes, it has to mean a qualified no.
I’ve never been in the armed forces nor do I ever want to be. I have no experience to draw on in regard to living in a regimented structure or abiding by a detailed chain of command. I know several gay men who are veterans of military service and have been honorably discharged because they wanted to do other things with their futures and not because of any infraction of the military codes of acceptable behavior.
I can only conjecture that the open acceptance of gay/lesbian service members should lay to rest, at least among those straights who are not incontrovertibly flat-earth thinkers, the stereotype of a gay man or woman as undependable, flighty, irresponsible, somehow second-rate mentally and physically.
Remember, there have always been gay and lesbian citizens in the American military, acknowledged or not.
Though not all service members are in combat units, can anyone really think that those gay men who have chosen to take the training that reverses all normal civil behavior be unable to kill when required by orders or mission? How can the stereotype of limp-wristed fruits hold up against the evidence of deeds and the awarding of medals?
Indeed, that’s why homo-acceptance is so worrisome to the flat-earthers – when prejudice meets reality, they lose their footing and slide on the suddenly made-round earth.
In the civilian mode of living, I also conjecture that the repeal of DADT will also lead to the repeal of DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] and the passage of ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] for the same reasons of prejudice meeting reality.
Dr. M.L. King is quoted as saying, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
I think this quote can apply to gays/lesbians in the American Armed Forces and civilian life.
Homo-hatred isn’t erased by the passage of laws any more than racism went extinct with the passage of the 1964 civil rights and 1965 voting rights acts or the 1954 Supreme Court opinion of Brown v. Board of Education that integrated public schools.
Racism is in play right now to a degree, I think, unseen since the mid-1950s to early 1960s.
The racism-that-dare-not-speak-its-name is due to the election of a bi-racial man as president. The historian Robert Graves wrote a novel of Roman empire days and he has the Emperor Claudius – a man supposed to have been progressive for his era – saying at his death, “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out,” referring to the wars he expected would develop without his more peaceful point-of-view to guide the politics of his time.
Even after the presidential signing of the bill the legal repeal of DADT doesn’t go into effect until the Pentagon and the president have certified that procedures and policies have been implemented that allows for the smooth transition of gay/lesbian openness in the military. And then there is a 60-day “cooling-off period.” Can this cooling-off period be a resurgence of a phrase from another important civil rights issue in the 1950s?
Even the integration decision of Brown in 1954 required a second opinion in 1955 clarifying just how fast the implementation of the 1954 decision was to occur. The nine wise men in black wrote “with all deliberate speed.”
It took 11 years for passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, named after two men who were killed in particularly heinous ways [one because he was gay, the other because he was black] during which time 41 states passed anti-gay marriage amendments or statutes. Only five states recognize our civil right to marry the person of our choice, with two states facing possible reversal of our equality: California and New Hampshire.
Perhaps the passage of time will bring our equality into focus even as the passage of laws are used to delay “with all deliberate speed” the recognition of our birthright of equality in America.
– James Nimmo lives in Oklahoma City and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer