At the annual Human Rights Campaign President Obama pledged to the LGBT community that he would end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. While I think this is an action that is long overdue, we need to know specifically what the president intends to do to change this policy. As a former United States Marine I can tell you simply forcing the military to accept gays could potentially end in disaster. This is an opportunity to gain equality for the LGBT community, therefore cannot allow this pledge to be executed haphazardly.
The people who voted President Obama into office did so because they wanted a drastic change. We are almost a year into his first term and his foreign policy, economic policy and commitment to personal liberty are a lot like the Bush years. President Obama’s pledge has to be more than just words.
This is a real chance for him to deliver “change we can believe in”. Our military is a tradition and culture as old as our country itself. If we can somehow get our military to accept gays as equals, then we can make equal rights for gays a national standard. My biggest concern is, what does President Obama intend to do exactly?
I know if he intends to have recruits declare their sexual orientation on their official paperwork we could see the situation for gays in the military become much worse than it already is. Outing themselves on their official paperwork we could see the situation for gays in the military become much worse than it already is. Outing themselves could make them targets for those in the military who do not approve of homosexuality. The military is made of every group, culture and religious preference.
There are those in the military who are ignorant enough to feel threatened by removing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They think allowing openly gay people in the military will somehow damage it and tempt others to become gay.
I know firsthand military hazing is not talked about, but it is a reality. I know of situations where unpopular members of platoons were attacked, but no one seemed to know anything about these events.
What would happen when you station an openly gay serviceperson within an infantry platoon where the majority doesn’t accept gays? I think we could have situations where gays are picked on and the hazing goes too far, maybe ending in serious injury. This is just in a garrison, what kinds of things could happen while a unit is deployed in another country? The control a commanding officer has is even less in a combat zone.
Unfortunately, a large section of our military is made up of fundamental religious interests. Some chaplains and some commanding officers honestly believe they are doing god’s work. They have gone as far as to encourage troops to distribute bibles to Muslims in the countries we are currently occupying with the hope of converting them. With these types of leaders in control we could have a potentially volatile situation.
What we need before this pledge can be moved forward is education. This means breaking away from tradition and having a true separation of church and state. This is a push for equality on the same level as the civil rights movement was in the sixties. We have to demand President Obama details how he intends to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.”