I’ve been thinking about this post for almost two weeks now, waiting to see if the anger would subside.
I don’t write well when I’m angry – or at least, I don’t always write clearly. And I was hoping that if the fury would calm itself, then maybe I would be able to say something constructive on the subject. Maybe I’d find a voice of reason that someone, somewhere would hear.
But alas, no. I still find myself shaking with rage and indignation every time I think about it.
It would be gays in the military.
It would be Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
It would be the legal discrimination that we allow to permeate throughout a democratic country under the banner of “tolerance” and “acceptance”.
It’s not that I never knew it existed. I’ve heard the term “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” floated around the various media outlets. I was aware that homosexuality wasn’t exactly celebrated in themilitary.
But I was completely naive about how far our country would go to uphold what I assumed was merely a tongue in cheek mandate meant to brush aside an issue we simply weren’t ready to talk about yet.
I assumed that the US government was taking the same stance on homosexuality that many Americans take. Which is, basically to say, it’s not that we hate gays OK? We just don’t want to have to watch men making out on the street because it kind of creeps us out. Do what you’re going to do, just don’t rub it in our face. Deal?
And Americans everywhere say… Deal. And we pat ourselves on the back for being so tolerant and accepting. Look at us! We love The Gays!
He expressed his appreciation for the Navy. He encouraged people to serve if they felt called to do so. And he did so even though the Navy had summarily kicked him out on his homosexual behind when they found out he was gay.
He was court marshaled – for being gay. His discharge papers noted his offense as “sodomy” – the official reason he was no longer fit to serve his country. And he’s not alone.
According to the Pentagon, over 1200 people were discharged from the military in 2001 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. In fact, the military kicked out an average of more than 1,000 people a year from 1997-2001 for the inexcusable offense of homosexuality.
Oh but wait! Those numbers are old! Since The War That Is Not Really A War began that number has dropped to less than 750 gays per year dismissed from the military.
Apparently being gay isn’t quite as big a deal if there’s a higher chance you’re going to get killed.
I was outraged when I first heard this. The more I read about it, the more outraged I become.
My first response was that this was wrong. And unfair. And that it just doesn’t make any sense to me that in the year 2008 it is still OK for American citizens to be penalized for being gay.
The first logical response I had was that this was legally hypocritical.
TheMilitary is funded by tax dollars. It is, in essence, one of the largest employers in the country where we – as tax payers – sign the checks. How in the hell could they be allowed to enforce employment discrimination that would be grounds for serious legal action if it occurred in the private sector? How many times have I heard about discrimination being forbidden by the Equal Employment Opportunity Laws?
Shouldn’t our government be held to the same legal standard that we hold private businesses to?
Because in the– a country that prides itself on a history of Civil Wars and Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Acts – it is still very, very legal to discriminate.
Not if you’re black.
But if you’re homosexual?
As the federal laws stand right now, there is absolutely no protection for homosexuals against discrimination in the work place. Let’s not even touch the whole “right to be married” issue for a moment. I can at least entertain the argument for a nanosecond that marriage brings up issues of religion and defining what constitutes a marriage and blah blah blah.
But we’re talking about the right to earn a paycheck. We’re talking about American citizens being promised that if they do the work they receive the pay. We’re talking about the exact same rights that we have already decided decades ago were a given for every single one of us.
While I am fully aware that there is still talk of Boys Clubs and racism is still very prevalent and women across the country are still holding rallies demanding fair pay… they at least have the law on their side. Theirs is a battle that legislators would at the very least publicly validate.
But homosexuality? Homosexuality is, legally, a second class citizenship.
How in the hell is that possible?
And where have I been that I did not fully understand how disgustingly antiquated our laws were?
I’ll tell you where I’ve been. I’ve been hiding out under my Tolerance Rock. I’ve been hanging with the Live and Let Live crowd, believing that by being “tolerant” of gays that I was somehow doing them a favor.
Homosexuality is no longer something that this country can afford to “tolerate”.
You “tolerate” a petulant child who is making too much noise in the booth behind you at your favorite restaurant. To tolerate is to “put up with” or “endure”. To tolerate is to allow it to exist, although you might not approve. To tolerate is to permit, as if you have some sort of authority to do so.
It is no longer sufficient for us to merely tolerate gay Americans.
By doing so, we smile in their faces while condemning millions of tax paying citizens to an existence without basic civil liberties.
It is time for us, for me, to move beyond tolerance. Beyond grudging acceptance.
Because whether you choose to date/marry/fornicate with men or women – whether you understand homosexuality on a personal level or not – the fact remains that we are talking about people who have the exact same rights to the same protections under the laws as everyone else.
You cannot stand for Women’s Rights and not insist on the same considerations for gays.
You cannot stand for Racial Equality and not demand that sexual orientation be included in the Equal Employment Opportunity Laws.
Over the last two weeks I have asked myself many times – what can I do? Because this is simply too big to just shake my head at and hope that someone else will make it right. But, I’m not a general or a lawmaker or an opinion maker. I don’t write a national column that millions of people read. I’m not a lobbyist or a reporter or a pollster.
But I am a voter.
It’s no secret that I have supported Obama since before he was even the nominee. It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I am a registered Democrat.
But even still, I was ready to base my vote – possibly change my vote – on this issue if necessary. Because I believe that more than oil prices or foreign policies or wars or taxes or education or health care that this is what our country is about.
More than any other issue, this country is rooted and built upon the protection of inalienable rights. Our idealisms begin and end with the lofty concept of equality. If I was ever prepared to make a single issue vote, this would be the one to do it over.
After doing my own research, I have found that I will, in fact, be changing my vote.
I am not just voting for Obama.
I am also voting against John McCain.