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DADT is dead: What now?

U.S. servicemen soon after integration

It all ended with a simple Tweet from the White House at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning that said, “The repeal of the discriminatory law known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell finally and formally takes effect.” DADT was dead.

Many years of work by a myriad of organizations and individuals finally helped the law succumb to its own discriminatory weight. There have always been questions about why DADT was so important when it only affects a very small percentage of the LGBT community. The answer is we hope that history repeats itself, only faster.

In 1948, President Truman integrated the armed forces and by 1964 the Civil Rights Act finally made African Americans equal citizens, at least as far as the law was concerned. No more segregation. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed that ensured that African Americans were not disenfranchised by voting laws and practices. Also, initially a paper victory.

There were emblematic photos like the one included here, that let America know in the most visceral manner that the armed forces were integrated. There will be no such photos for DADT. Are we going to photograph soldiers with their units standing behind a rainbow flag or the HRC equals sign? I think not.

So the change in the modern military will bring about change on a one-on-one basis as soldiers reveal themselves to those they work with in a natural way. A simple conversation about who is waiting for them at home or why they never go out to the strip bar on shore leave.

The military does not have the cultural weight it had in 1948 when America was acutely aware of two wars where millions of young boys had died. Almost every family was touched by the sacrifice made by those in the military. Today not so much.

While DADT is a victory over those who are perceived to hate us the most, Republican and Democratic neo-cons, the LGBT community has a lot of work to do. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act will help all members of the LGBT community by providing protection from discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.

Then there is the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. DOMA guarantees that our relationships cannot be recognized by the federal government and prevents us from taking advantage of the over 1100 rights granted to married couples.

While DOMA is being challenged by the Obama administration, and has been determined to be unconstitutional in court cases in Massachusetts and California, there is significant opposition to its repeal by Republicans.

If the LGBT community wants true equality we must continue to push forward. The repeal of DADT is not going to have an effect on the average American because there will be no iconic images of this moment. How do you show the repeal of DADT and its effect? You cannot.

What our community needs to do is to use this historic moment to come out at work. I am not suggesting that those in states without employment protections come out. However, those in California, Massachusetts, New York or the other 12 states where there are employment protections for the full LGBT community, or those in the additional 17 states that provide protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals, should use the repeal of DADT to educate their co-workers by coming out.

That would truly be historic and move the ball down the field toward the goal post of equality. It is common knowledge that those who know someone who is a member of our community are more likely to support LGBT equality. So while the repeal of DADT is truly symbolic of our move toward equality, why not be true in your workplace? That small action by millions of people will ensure the legacy of DADT repeal.

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Posted by on Sep 29, 2011. Filed under Editorial, Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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