When I first accepted Bilerico's invitation to blog here, Bil cautioned me that some of our readers might be taken aback at the idea of an LGBT military activist blogging on a progressive site. But there are many good reasons progressives, civilians and those of us opposed to the war should still be very concerned about the fate of LGBT military personnel and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Why the Military Matters
In fact, until very recently, the military led the way in opening doors for a diverse array of communities. The armed forces were desegregated, via executive order, long before African Americans made headway in their civil rights struggle elsewhere. Women, too, found job opportunities in the military before they did in the civilian sector. But most importantly, for both groups, military service led to significant civil rights gains that changed America forever. That's because, when you can fight and die for your country, there is very little your country can deny you.
One of America's most respected civil rights leaders, Dorothy Haight, has said that desegregation of the military was the first, and one of the most important, victories in the fight for equal opportunity. The same has been true, in other countries, when the armed forces have been opened up to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. Just consider this:
No nation has legalized recognition of same-sex couples before lifting their ban on gays in the military. In countries where there is federal recognition of our relationships, that recognition has come within just a few years of ending the prohibition on open service.
Military service is, in the end, about full citizenship. Former Senator Sam Nunn knew this very well when he helped craft the current ban on gays in the military. In 1992, when Nunn insisted that marriage, or attempted marriage, to a person of the same gender be grounds for dismissal from the military, the issue of gay marriage was barely a blip on the community's radar. But Nunn understood that full equality and military service are inextricably linked. That's why our opponents will fight so vigorously to keep the ban in place, and why we must be equally vigilant in working for its repeal.
In the weeks and months ahead, I'll be blogging about a wide variety of issues: politics, culture, sex and, probably, a post or two about Madonna. But first, I wanted all of our readers to understand the immense importance of the campaign to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Whether you're a service member, veteran, civilian, pacifist or human rights activist, this issue should be important to you, because it may well determine how quickly we make the other gains that are so important to our community.