Don't Stop

Despite the declaration ''This is done,'' the military still lives under the law of ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell''

by Sean Bugg
Published on April 7, 2011, 3:03am | Comments

If I were to create a list of things about which I never wanted to write about again, ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' would be right there at the top. That's not because I don't care — frankly, it ranked at the top of my personal list of gay priorities, which is why I've written about it so often in the past.

But it was fair enough to hope that, once the odious law was repealed, that it would be time to move on, to focus and agitate on other things.

That's not been the case.

Of course, it was pretty obvious at the end of 2010 when the law to repeal DADT was passed that the story wasn't over. While President Barack Obama declared after signing it, ''This is done,'' it's not quite done yet, given that the legislation built in time for training, certification and congressional review. Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the signing, and all the celebration of our community at finally passing a federal piece of pro-gay legislation, ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' is still the law of the land, and will remain so at least until fall.

As we've seen recently, servicemembers still find themselves at risk of discharge proceedings. Pragmatism may have its role in the politics of legislation, but it has the downside of tying into knots the people whose lives have to be put on hold in the service of expediency.

Not that the bigots and dinosaurs are at all placated by pragmatism. House Republicans staged a hearing on DADT on April Fools' Day, taking another bite at the rotten apple — yet another hearing, yet another batch of politicians playing to a far-right base eager to hear more about shared showers and ''unit cohesion.''

It's simply astonishing, still, to see the tenacity of anti-gay discrimination in the face of its own demise. Even as the vast majority of Americans greet the idea of open military service with support, Republican presidential candidates eagerly talk of repealing the repeal. After an election season in which Republicans talked about the preeminence of the economy and government debt, the Republican National Committee just launched yet another attack on gay issues, from military to marriage.

They just can't quit us.

I do feel for the gay and lesbian Republicans who've made it their political mission to make their party more inclusive. I don't say that with cynicism because I actually believe that, despite my own disagreements with Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud, it's important work. Sisyphean, perhaps, but important.

While I'm realistic about the fact that what change we've seen has come in fits and starts, leaving many in the lurch while equality catches up to reality, I'm also of the camp that believes the past two years have been remarkable ones for the gay and lesbian community. All the issues the Republican Party puts out as red meat for the basest of their base — going so far as to slam the White House for making the right of hospital visitation a reality for same-sex couples — are victories we should savor.

They should also whet our appetite for more. So many of the victories we have aren't quite victories yet. DADT is still in effect, even if the finish line is in sight. The administration's decision not to defend parts of the Defense of Marriage Act in court may signal the beginning of the end, but it still leaves gay couples in harm's way, as we've seen in the back-and-forth over green card applications and bi-national couples. ENDA, the legislation that so many had hoped would take center stage before DOMA and DADT, is in a holding pattern on the Hill until a more favorable election creates another opportunity for passage.

Like ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'' the battle for equality is far from over. Even if we take a moment for a bit of celebration, we have to keep our focus on the fight for change.


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