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YC Magazine, Libertarian Commentary, January 2011

by Brian Smith

During the 2010 “lame duck” session of Congress, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell (DADT) was finally repealed. DADT was the policy that prohibited gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the military. Although the majority of Americans wanted it repealed and one judge had ruled the policy unconstitutional, repeal of DADT didn’t look as if it would occur in the foreseeable future. Democrats were wary of bringing up the issue prior to the elections, and after the elections, Republicans were hoping to delay a vote until the new (more favorable) Congress was seated.

Libertarians support this repeal. The LP platform states “Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals…”. This does extend to military service.

Supporters of continuing DADT used questionable logic, and questionable facts to support their arguments. However, their spin did gain some traction as many Americans began to view DADT as a de facto ban on gays in the military. This was never the intent of the law.

In 1992 Bill Clinton promised to bring an end to the ban on gay and lesbian service members. Faced with this pledge, the fear of unfavorable court rulings, and countries around the world ending the ban, Congress crafted DADT as a compromise. It would allow gays to serve, prohibited the military from asking their orientation, but also prohibited gay troops from serving openly, or “telling”.

While the short comings of this law were obvious from the outset, nobody expected it to devolve to its current state. In 17 years over 13,000 service members have been discharged under DADT. Two cases best illustrate the discriminatory nature of DADT. An Air Force Major who had been in a committed relationship with a civilian woman for six years was investigated and discharged for homosexual conduct. Another Air Force Major had personal e-mails searched without his knowledge, and was later discharged for content found in them. Both were decorated combat veterans.

Arguments made by those opposed to the repeal of DADT generally descend to stereotypes. Heterosexual troops will not want to share quarters, showers, or foxholes with gay troops. What these elected officials can’t comprehend, or hope Americans don’t know, is that DADT allowed gays in the military. They already share quarters, showers, and yes, even foxholes. They serve together in the same units, fight the same battles, and face the same dangers. The only real difference is that some of these brave men and women have to hide, and lie about who they are, living in constant fear of being “outed”.

Opponents of repeal also use the fear tactic that there will be mass resignations in our officer corps, and that re-enlistment will be irreparably damaged. This has not been the case in other countries, and the U.S. military deserves more credit than that. A massive survey was conducted for the military, and the overwhelming conclusion was that gays and lesbians serving openly in the military would have a positive effect, mixed effect, or no effect. The survey which was demanded by Republicans, was then attacked by them because of the outcome.

Libertarians are strong supporters of civil rights. Gay and Lesbian service members should receive no special privileges, nor should they be denied rights or benefits granted to their peers.
After the repeal is certified, and the DADT policy is removed, it will tear down another wall of discrimination, and add one more rung to the ladder of equality for all Americans.

Brian Smith is the Chair of the York County Libertarian Party

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