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The End of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

I'm 45-years-old now. When I was a kid, my father told me "Don't judge a man unless you've walked a mile in his moccasins." It was an old saying when I was young, but in our haste to continue our national "evolution", we've developed some blind spots when it comes to folk wisdom. Young generations, and even members of my generation, have forgotten or never learned the wisdom of that phrase (and of others). We feel impatient or irritated with what we now... 

I'm 45-years-old now. When I was a kid, my father told me "Don't judge a man unless you've walked a mile in his moccasins." It was an old saying when I was young, but in our haste to continue our national "evolution", we've developed some blind spots when it comes to folk wisdom. Young generations, and even members of my generation, have forgotten or never learned the wisdom of that phrase (and of others). We feel impatient or irritated with what we now consider to be "cliches" like that one without remembering that there's a reason they were old sayings when we were young.

So, recalling that maxim, I will readily admit that, despite thinking I have a pretty good brain and a pretty decent imagination, I will never understand what it's like to be a woman, or a black person, or a member of the last minority constituency in the Country that it's still politically acceptable to openly denigrate and disparage (if you're on the extreme right or hide behind the dubious barrier of religion): GLBT people.

When I was a young boy, I instinctively knew that I was straight, as many billions of human beings do by the time they reach a certain age. The Kinsey "spectrum" of sexuality notwithstanding, everybody pretty much knows where they fall out on that line.

So while I had to deal with many challenges in my life, and I had to try to think, fight, study, test or work my way through many barriers, one barrier with which I never had to contend was having to be ashamed of who I felt compelled to love.

That was then and this is now, as another old saying goes, and yet as much as our society has done good work in doing away with active prejudice of all kinds, having made great strides in women's rights and civil rights issues, we've lagged shamefully and inexplicably behind on the matter of respect for sexual minorities.

Of course, there's a reason for that. One can't justify racial hatred from the Bible unless one is truly a crackpot interpreter of that book (or of The Koran). On the other hand, someone intending to mount an "intellectual" defense of bigotry against sexual minorities can find much fodder in the active pronouncements of modern religious movements. It is for these reasons that it's still "OK" to bash homosexual people publically, especially if you're from the right wing.

One of the ways that this prejudice has most actively festered was in the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which prevented service people from openly declaring themselves to be homosexual in exchange for the dubious "protection" of not having to worry about being asked by anyone else about their sexual preference while in uniform.

In other words, what the saying really meant was "stay in the closet and we'll pretend you're not in there." I was never in the military, but I've had family members who were and at one time, I aspired to be (but I got too tall to do the particular thing I wished to do in the Navy). I don't understand, therefore, why people can be asked to literally risk their lives and follow orders into danger but at the same time told to be ashamed of whom they are and who they love.

Frankly, if someone is willing to lay down their lives to protect my freedom, then frankly, I'm happy to let gay people do it, straight people do it, women do it, etc. Anyone who wants to serve with honor and courage ought to be allowed to serve while remaining who they are.

This doesn't mean that it's now open season on public displays of affection. Military discipline is undermined by either gay or straight displays of that kind. A soldier is a soldier and a sailor is a sailor, regardless of gender (and now, regardless of sexual orientation). That means everyone must act the part of a disciplined warrior and that means refraining from conduct unbecoming, whether you happen to be "conducting" yourself with a straight partner or with a gay partner.

Service people who've been dismissed for having "violated" the policy by simply being who they are will be invited to reenlist and, presumably, their records will be expunged of any "taint" associated with their prior departure. Service Chaplains will, presumably, despite still ignorant objection, be trained and permitted to conduct same sex marriages, which cannot but have tremendous - and positive - impact on the national movement to require fairness in marriage rights for GLBT people.

As a Civil Rights Lawyer, of course, I support this repeal. I also support the repeal because I'm an American citizen and I believe in freedom and fairness. I also support the repeal because I have a wife and a son and I want them safe. Which means to me that anyone willing to courageously put themselves in harm's way to protect them is a hero to me, whether they're gay or straight. I support the repeal because I'm a human being and the ban seems to me to be the most offensive kind of passive aggressiveness.

And thus we lay one more paving block on the road on the "Journey to Justice."

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