Marching forward

President Obama has finally repealed the ''don't ask, don't tell'' (DADT) policy, a promise he'd made during his 2008 presidential campaign. While many have been discharged over the course of those three dithering years, equal rights advocates across the board have banded together to congratulate him. Signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, it fell short of his campaign promises of ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. It proved to be a lukewarm response to decades of harassment, culminating in the tragic death of Allen R. Schlinder, Jr in 1992.

To put an end to this, the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a Republican-affiliated LGBT advocacy group, filed a lawsuit to repeal this policy in 2004.

''The repeal was long overdue as DADT was an ill conceived policy when it was enacted and its implementation over the years has damaged the lives of many patriotic Americans," says Bob Kabel, the Chair of the District of Columbia Republican Committee (DCRC), former Board Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans, and member of the Vanderbilt Law School Alumni Board from 1997 to 1999.

He adds, ''I was pleased to see President Obama finally step forward to work with Republicans in Congress to repeal DADT.'' 

In Tennessee, the GOP is more reserved. Senator Bob Corker opposed the repeal, blaming the unnecessary disruptions it would allegedly bring about to the military in war time. In a strange case of legislative barter, his counterpart, Senator Alexander Lamar, went as far as to threaten to vote against the new START treaty with Russia if DADT was repealed. Disagreement is rampant as to whether this is a partisan issue or not.

Rep. John Ragan, who as a state representative did not cast a vote, suggests more challenges may lie ahead. A former commander who graduated from the United States Air Force Academy (USAF), he says the repeal would not remove the ban. He cites the Uniform Code of Military Justice (1950), signed into law under President Truman, with an article making certain sexual acts in the bedroom often associated with homosexuals – namely ''sodomy'' – a reason to court-martial military personnel.  

"This provision from the UCMJ is not enforced," says Christian Berle, Deputy Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans. "If it were to be enforced, I would imagine that a servicemember would simply challenge the constitutionality of this section in the UCMJ as Lawrence v. Texas overturned every enforcement of 'bans' on sodomy in all laws save the UCMJ.''

He adds that this prohibition in the UCMJ applies to heterosexual military officers too, were they to engage in such acts. However, Rep. Ragan rejects the use of Lawrence v. Texas, as it did not happen in a military court, and he adds he has been directly involved in military trials involving the UCMJ. While the LCR suggest appealing to Mike Mullen, Rep. Ragan stresses it is Congress who has the last word in this case. More should be expected from this moot point.

For now, the repeal of DADT will only be implemented sixty days after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen certifies it. When it is, and provided it is not questioned by the UCMJ, it will normalize military personnel in the same way as US military allies such as Great Britain, Israel or even France allow gays and lesbians to serve and fight in the War on Terror, making it neither a liberal nor a conservative issue, but rather a non-issue.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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