The lift of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” legislation, banning homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces, has been a long time coming. Instated during the Clinton Administration this bit of restrictive legislation has been fought back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. The ban prohibits anyone that “demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the armed forces of the United States, citing that “it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” It also prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation, or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The purpose of the legislation was to originally protect homosexuals from, “witch hunts”, where persons suspected for homosexual behavior would be turned in for investigation and more often than not discharged, and often the physical and mental abuse that comes with hate. However this piece of legislation, has moved from protective to restrictive, forcing homosexual persons to live in fear of being “outed” and subsequently discharged. President Obama received criticism in 2009 from Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender civil rights groups for not acting against this legislation sooner, groups who feared the president would not act his promises to repeal this disquieting law. However, the President put millions of hearts and minds in uniform at ease when he stated a few days ago in Tampa, Florida, “Look, as I said last night, my belief is that a basic principle in our Constitution is that if you’re obeying the law, if you’re obeying the rules, you should be treated the same, regardless of who you are. I think that principle applies to gay and lesbian couples.” Referring to his State of the Union speech, where the president made clear his intentions to overturn the ban and move toward an America free for all of its citizens.
Though the overturning of this ban reflects progress in a country that prides itself on equality and justice for all, it is evident that there is still a ways to go, with a portion of our nation’s citizens not eligible for certain rights. For something as slight as sexual orientation, Americans are berated, separated, and treated as second class. With the embattled California case against same sex marriage, Schwarzenegger v. Perry, we as Americans are sure to see change in our country. Whether this change is towards a more equal America or towards a more restrictive one, it is for our government to tell. Hopefully they will not act with “all deliberate speed” but rather move actively towards a more equal America, leaving as they did “Jim Crow”, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation in the past.
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