Give and take with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction on Wednesday prohibiting the U.S. government from continuing to enforce the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in the military. But Republicans in the House of Representatives are filing amendments to the FY 2012 Department of Defense Appropriations bill that will require somewhat different discrimination against gays in the military.

The three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals based its injunction in part on the government’s statements about the anti-gay discriminatory effect of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) and the fact that training in the military is almost complete in advance of the legislated end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after the military’s top brass certifies that they are ready.

This makes a big impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people currently serving in the U.S. military. Despite last December’s repeal legislation that passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the president, repeal itself isn’t official until after the military’s top leaders and the president all certify that all branches of the military have prepared for repeal, and after that there’s a 60-day waiting period. This means that up until now, despite the repeal legislation, it has still been legal for LGBT people to be kicked out of the military for their sexual orientation.

Before LGBT (or pro-LGBT) advocates get too excited, though, consider the work that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are doing to legislate other discrimination against LGBT people in the military. Seeing that DADT is on its way out, these anti-LGBT legislators are continuing to try to put their prejudicial views in the law books as many ways as they can get away with.

First there’s Rep. Virginia Foxx from my own state of North Carolina. She’s filed an amendment to military funding legislation that essentially restates DOMA in terms of the military’s enforcement. As the Human Rights Campaign points out, “It is troubling that Rep. Foxx would question whether our military leaders understand” that DOMA applies to the military as well, at least as long as it’s the law of the land. (Perhaps she’s aiming to get an alternative to DOMA on the books, to protect against DOMA’s eventual removal?)

Rep. Dan Burton from Indiana filed a second amendment that would forbid the military from using any appropriated funds from Congress to permit a civil union or marriage unless it complies with DOMA, or even to permit such ceremonies from happening on land that is under the Department of Defense’s jurisdiction. He even filed another amendment specifically prohibiting the military from giving DADT-repeal training to military personnel in combat zones.

The clever thing about this third amendment is that it would effectively kill the legislated repeal of DADT, because military top brass isn’t going to certify repeal readiness if large groups of the military haven’t been trained yet. We’ll likely ALWAYS have soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in combat zones, so the military would have to wait until they have been rotated out of combat zones to train them — which could certainly take a long, long time.

Wednesday’s court ruling probably makes that irrelevant, as it appears that repeal has just been forced through by the judicial system… And that’s probably not really that big of a push forward, considering nearly all of the military training has been completed (or at least will be in the next week.) In fact, it would seem that training nearly being completed already would render the third amendment a moot point anyway, right? But still, having the legislated repeal process proceed through the motions is an important “nail in the coffin” to end any doubt about repeal once and for all.

Still, it pisses me off that we continue to have conservative, closed-minded, prejudiced lawmakers trying everything they can to legislate their discriminatory biases. Or worse, opportunistic politicians who know that taking visible steps against the gay community will bring in campaign funds from rich bigots who think they know what God has to say about their gay neighbors.

Two steps forward, one step back, right? But I suppose this is how society and culture change over time… Gradually, painfully, and with hard-fought baby steps.

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