Monday, December 6, 2010

A big improvement but still tainted

The Pentagon report on the survey of the troops and their families about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't tell was released last Tuesday. I wasn't all that interested to read all 267 pages, so I'm glad Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin summarized the recommendations. The report had two parts, what the survey told the military leaders and the recommendations for how to proceed with repeal (once Congress gives permission).

The report is a gigantic step in the right direction, but it is not all roses. Many recommendations are quite good. Some recommendations are constrained by the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that says the government cannot recognize gay marriages. Other recommendations are tainted with heterosupremacy -- the belief that straight relationships are inherently better than gay relationships. Here's a summary of the summary.

1. Don't treat full integration of gays in the same manner as integration by race. Don't place sexual orientation alongside race, color, religion, sex and national origin as a class eligible for diversity programs and tracking initiatives. Yes, orientation is not to be a factor in promotion and personnel decision making, and cases of abuse should be handled as all other such cases are handled. Alas, we've seen that when sexual orientation isn't specifically mentioned in anti-bullying laws students still feel free to bully gay kids.

2. Don't track the effectiveness of integration -- don't ask service members if they are gay.

3. There is no need to change policies to address fears of homosexual behavior. Current standards of conduct, applied without regard to orientation, are sufficient.

4. No need to change Chaplain policies. If atheists, Christians, and Muslims can serve together, so can those with varying views of the sinfulness of homosexuality.

5. Repeal the ban on "sodomy" between consenting adults.

6. Orientation is not to be considered when assigning rooms. If a raging homophobe objects to rooming with the gay guy, handle it on a case-by-case basis.

7. Separate showers are not necessary. Gays already share showers with straights in hundreds of thousands college dorms, school gyms, professional sports locker rooms, police and fire stations, and athletic clubs. We should now be able to lay this particular bogeyman to rest.

8. Revise regulations so that gays can appropriately define "dependent" and "family member" for benefits. Alas, a gay spouse isn't seen for the relationship, but only as a "designee." Gay couples do not get military housing in the same way that unmarried straight couples are not eligible for such housing.

9. Don't rewrite regulations to allow same sex partners be accommodated in duty assignments.

10. There are already regulations concerning HIV in the blood supply, so they don't need to be changed.

11. Those who were dismissed under DADT can reenlist, provided they still qualify in all other respects.

12. Those who threaten to quit rather than work with gays should not be accommodated.

John McCain has been blubbering that the survey should have asked whether the soldiers believe DADT should be repealed. The report says if it had been done that way it would have been a referendum on the policy and the military does not make decisions by referendum.

The military brass, in hearings before the Senate, have been saying forcefully that repeal should happen by law and not by the courts. If the courts have their way the policy must be repealed immediately. If done by law the Pentagon can implement changes carefully with minimal disruption. Care about combat readiness? Then repeal the law.

Harry Reid has released the Senate calendar for the time until adjournment on Dec. 17th. DADT repeal and the defense spending authorization is not listed. Obama will either change the policy through executive directives (with the risk that the next president will reinstate it) or wait for the courts to repeal it. Perhaps he'll do both.

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