This is a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Megapost In Which McCain Gets Crazier, Repeal Gets Closer, Etc.

Last week we told you that a vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in Congress was reasonably imminent; now, with the official results of the Defense Department’s study being released tomorrow, it’s all coming to a head.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon officials have all indicated that they’re in favor of a change, but this is a divisive enough issue that no one feels quite comfortable predicting how this vote will go. There’s some reason to be confident; even if timelines are an area of controversy, most politicians agree they want the repeal to end sooner or later.

Some people are very hopeful about the policy’s ending this month; for instance, discharged lesbian West Point cadet Katie Miller is re-applying to her school in the hopes that she will soon be a fully qualified candidate before the law.

The showdown hearings are sure to be high Washington theater, with a sprinkling of camera-loving protests possible. Each side will be marshaling whatever evidence it can pull out of the year-long Pentagon review to buttress its argument. Lawmakers will ask supporters of lifting the ban how sure they are that a change in the law wouldn’t harm unit readiness. They’ll ask opponents to justify their stance in light of President Harry Truman’s unilateral order racially-integrating the ranks and asked why the believe the world’s finest fighting force can’t handle the repeal. Sunday’s talk shows offered a preview from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We don’t have a problem,” John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has become a chief defender of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in recent months, said on CNN Sunday.

John McCain, who was re-elected this month in Arizona, has maintained his anti-repeal stance to a degree that is beginning to look excessive even to those who don’t categorically oppose him. He was originally a strong voice for the Pentagon’s ten-month review of the options for repeal, saying that it was necessary to be fully informed before making any decisions; now that that study is about to be revealed, he’s refusing to accept its findings, and calling for an entirely new study on the effects on morale and battle effectiveness before any progress can be made.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written a letter defending the study’s finding and the future of repeal, emphasizing that further “research” on the topic may effectively result in leaving the issue up to a de facto referendum of the troops. Which would be terrible policy creation and also in defiance of basically every tenet of military administration. McCain stuck to his guns, however, and remains vocal that nothing done so far on the part of Congress of the Pentagon could make a repeal possible.

McCain has also blamed Obama’s “inexperience” for the President’s naive belief that this policy can or should be changed, which seems in particularly poor taste considering the fact that President Obama has a full two years more experience at being President than McCain ever has, because Obama was elected instead of him. Or maybe that’s what this is really all about. Either way, there are perhaps more flattering and politically expedient ways to go about this.

If you’re curious about where this mentality is coming from, or if you remain at a total loss for how this could possibly the state of affairs in this time and place and world where man can walk on the moon but not call his husband his husband and still keep his job, you might find this article on why the Marines are the branch of the military most vehemently opposed to a repeal interesting. Obviously it’s a really complex issue, but also a fascinating one: the acknowledgement that gay people currently serve in the military existing simultaneously with the vociferous refusal to recognize them personally, and the fierce commitment to intimacy within the unit alongside the complete disgust that that intimacy might ever be romantic – I don’t know, it’s just layers upon layers upon a million layers of sociocultural complexity. Some highlights: (@spokesman)

There is nothing more intimate than combat and I want to make that point crystal clear,” Amos told reporters in San Diego recently. “There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women, and when you’re talking infantry, we’re talking our young men laying out, sleeping alongside of one another, and sharing death and fear and the loss of their brothers.”

“I just think it would complicate things,” said Trentham, 24, of Sevierville, Tenn. “If you have two homosexuals in a unit, they could have a relationship and if they broke it off, is that going to cause the mission to fail because they are having problems?

Gary Solis, a Marine combat veteran who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center, said [some] have the misconception that openly gay Marines will not be as aggressive or “gung-ho” as their comrades in arms… “Of course, we know none of that’s true about homosexuals,” Solis added. “There have always been homosexuals in the Marine Corps, but when you acknowledge it openly, that’s a different thing.”

Not sure what to make of it all? Well, here’s one more point to consider: despite the constant back-and-forth of the federal courts on the legality of DADT – which was challenged by Judge Virginia Phillips, but ultimately declared viable by superior judges – there were no discharges of gay or lesbian servicemembers for the last month. Although discharging gay soldiers is still in keeping with military policy in technical terms, Defense Secretary Gates put the official power of discharge in the hands of the service secretaries on October 21, of which there are only three for the entire military.

“Statistically, it would be extremely unlikely if we had a month in which there were no gay discharges,” Belkin said, noting that 428 gay and lesbian service members were honorably discharged under the ban in 2009. “When you require a service secretary to sign off on a discharge, you are basically saying, ‘We don’t want any people in this category discharged unless there is an exceptional situation.'”

If actions speak louder than words – and in a case where this many words have been said to little effect, they do – this is one action that maybe implies that people in power in the military actually truly don’t want to have to fire any more qualified soldiers. Let’s hope that their attitude wins out on the voting floor this week.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1097 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. oh mike, how I agree with you.
    I would really like to say that I’m not praying for this to all work out in our favor this time, because I’m afraid of having my heart broken and being forced again to stay in the closet. Not just a work, but everywhere I go. If I am seen with another woman and it looks like a relationship, I am in trouble. Idiot mcain open your fucking eyes. I hope his wife divorces him after she cheats on him with another woman.

  2. “I just think it would complicate things,” said Trentham, 24, of Sevierville, Tenn. “If you have two homosexuals in a unit, they could have a relationship and if they broke it off, is that going to cause the mission to fail because they are having problems?”

    Uhmm…wouldn’t this go for heterosexual relationships too? How igornant him to even think a gay couple on the force would sabbatoge a mission. I’m pretty sure that despite personal issues all soliders, despite sexual orientation, are full trained and aware not to mixed personal issues on deck.

  3. How can McCain say “there was no problems in the military with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” when here we are now, trying to revolutionize and change what he, and sadly, many others view as constitutional? He had the nerve to say that its voluntary?!? why the hell would anyone volunteer to keep themselves hidden from the men and women they eat, sleep, fight with, and befriend?? Most of us on this site know what its like to be in the closet,(SUCKS) but to have to remain in the closet while defending the bigots that shoved you back in there must be torturous! I just hope people will realize how unjust DADT is so it can finally be repealed once and for all

  4. I was going to say how much McCain’s viewpoint is given credence by linking to the wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation_and_military_service#Countries_That_Have_Exploded_Since_Letting_Gays_In_The_Military

    But then I realised I can’t because no country has ever exploded because they let gays in the military.

    Here’s a question for someone that might know about legal stuff: when the DADT repeal goes through (which must happen eventually), because it will be a federal change, could it act as a precedent for federal anti-gay general employment discrimination law changes too? Or can it have no impact because it’s a change in military policy, rather than law?

    I have no idea how your bat-shit crazy US legal system works, other than for gay people it doesn’t really seem to work at all.

    • Yes American legal and governmental issues are complicated as crap and this whole DATD thing is probably giving us all some sort of mental or emotional disorder just trying to keep up with it. I’m sorry I can’t answer your question I don’t understand well enough.

      Mostly commenting to say I clicked on the link and then clicked a couple more times and came across this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Band_of_Thebes

      Did you guys know about that? I had no idea and it is FASCINATING.

      • The Lion of Chaeronea (erected in memory of the fallen at the decisive battle there) is less than 15 min. away from my parents’ childhood village in Greece. I always stop by and see it whenever I visit, especially given its close proximity, but let me say I would be hard-pressed to find a local that knows as much about the history of the monument or admit members of the Sacred Band of Thebes were more than just close friends. They were no match for Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander (aka Alexander the Great) but it does say something that they’d rather fight than surrender after the remaining Theban army and allies had already fled. Anyway, sorry for the history lesson – glad you stumbled across it.

    • I just LOVE how the US had to have its own section regarding gays in the military. Not only do we keep fucking things up, but we also have to make it complicated.

      Also, I was born here, consider myself fairly well-informed, and still don’t fully understand how our bat-shit crazy legal system works.

  5. From the comments on that article about the Marines:

    “To be honest, the movement to repeal DADT is driven by a crusade to force the military services —and everyone in military service including chaplains and Christians with serious moral objections—to normalize acceptance of homosexual identity and behavior.”

    Uh . . . yes?

    Because acceptance has caused SO MANY problems in the past. I hear black people can be president now!

    • Ha. This.

      I still don’t understand at what point we decided to declare Christianity as our national religion and therefore, had the right to make laws revolving around one groups set of morals. Oh, wait. That never happened. So what in the hell is going on!?

      • This is like 90% of the reason I am against organized religion, specifically Christianity. It takes an intense and basically impossible amount of cognitive dissonance to sit in church on Sunday morning and hear one hellfire and brimstone message, and then pleasantly go about the rest of your secular week making policy decisions in a rational informed unbiased manner.

        In his first book The End of Faith, Sam Harris argues that there’s really no room for religious toleration in a world where nuclear weaponry exists; and I would argue further that a Christian’s opinions on my life (and society) are simply not as valid. The Bible discriminates against so many people, and those prejudices are percolating through 2010 in increasingly scary ways. Social policy should not be determined or influenced by religion. That is the whole point of the separation of church and state, which is alluded to in the Constitution. (If America was ‘a Christian nation’ wouldn’t it make it just as bad as place in the Middle East which run on Sharia?) Idk, I have a lot of feelings about this issue that I know how to express in varying levels of authority and eloquence so I’m going to stop here..

        Two opinions should no longer be given identical credence when one is based in rigorously peer-reviewed and tested contemporary scientific fact while the other is based off the translated and re-translated words that some guy who apparently heard God talk to him said 2000+ years ago. Sorry but no. Newsflash, there’s probably no such thing as angels. Sodom and Gomorrah probably didn’t even happen. DO YOU REGULARLY SEE PEOPLE TURNING INTO PILLARS OF SALT.

        • If i remember correctly the place where Sodom and Gomorrah stood also happens to be a earthquake zone. Wouldn´t surprise me if there were to cities thus named that earthquakes destroyed and people interpreted it as the wrath of god. Just like how the Noah story is properly based on when the Mediterranean Sea broke trough the land bridge between Asia minor and Europe and made the smaller lake that had been there before into a larger black sea.

  6. This is such BS.
    In Canada we lifted it in 1992. The US did a study on what it did to our military (lifted from Wikipedia)
    – Lifting of restrictions on gay and lesbian service in the Canadian Forces has not led to any change in military performance, unit cohesion, or discipline.
    – Self-identified gay, lesbian, and transsexual members of the Canadian Forces contacted for the study describe good working relationships with peers.
    – The percent of military women who experienced sexual harassment dropped 46% after the ban was lifted. While there were several reasons why harassment declined, one factor was that after the ban was lifted women were free to report assaults without fear that they would be accused of being a lesbian.
    – Before Canada lifted its gay ban, a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers found that 62% said that they would refuse to share showers, undress or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier. After the ban was lifted, follow-up studies found no increase in disciplinary, performance, recruitment, sexual misconduct, or resignation problems.
    – None of the 905 assault cases in the Canadian Forces from November, 1992 (when the ban was lifted) until August, 1995 involved gay bashing or could be attributed to the sexual orientation of one of the parties.

    There. Done. Worked fine for us.
    DADT needs to get thrown out.

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