Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The FINAL End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

This Tuesday (September 20th) marked the official end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in our military. Gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans are now permitted to honorably and openly serve our country.

Mini-history lesson!

The policy originally known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” was passed in December of 1993 as a compromise between Congress (anti-gay kids) and President Clinton’s administration (pro-gay kids, at least in comparison). President Clinton's platform included public intentions of repealing the ban on gay military service but he was unable to overcome the anti-progress and anti-equal rights positions of the current Congress. The intention of what we came to know as simply “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (or DADT) was to prevent military recruiters and officers from forcing applicants and soldiers to reveal their sexual orientation; to forbid military applicants and soldiers from acknowledging their queer identification; and to disallow officers in the US military from conducting “witch hunt”-style investigations into otherwise honorable service-members.

The full, official title of the policy eventually included the words “Don’t Harass” in a further attempt to stem anti-queer intimidation, attacks, sexual abuse and other forms of discrimination within the ranks of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. and US Coast Guard. However, enforcement was spotty at best and discrimination on an individual and institutional level persisted (along with “witch hunt”-style investigations). While DADT was the active policy, otherwise honorable (and at times critical) service-men and -women could be dishonorably discharged  and precluded from receiving military pensions and other benefits. Nearly 14,000 Americans were kicked out of the US military because of DADT.

Since 1993 queer activists have worked tirelessly to propel our country towards the year 2011 (just because it is doesn’t mean we’re there yet). As of Tuesday, we can be counted on a list of over 40 countries around the world whose military does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation – including US allies like Israel, Germany, Canada, Japan, and Great Britain.

While the road ahead for our service-men and -women is undoubtedly still rocky (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan) and the repeal of DADT does not directly deal with issues of transgender/transsexual Americans and military service, it is a step towards being on the right side of history – and that should always been commended.

Another issue that remains is the question of federal marriage equality. After all, who wants to look a Marine in the eye and say, “Yes, Marine, I believe your marriage is inferior to mine; yes, Marine, I believe your love is less honest and true and faithful than mine”?

Despite the issues that remain, ending DADT is great and here’s one reason why: queer soldiers may now feel that they can live more openly overall and represent themselves more fully, whether on YouTube or when talking to family members. Or both....

Our military values honest, bravery and integrity – the repeal of DADT supports all of these values and offers the opportunity for us to become a stronger country overall.

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