Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wrong Issue

During last week's Republican debate, Wolf Blitzer asked any GOPer on the stage to speak up if he supported changing the military's don't ask, don't tell policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. His invitation was left unopened; nary a Republican, even Ron Paul, spoke up. Meanwhile, every Democrat, when offered the same invite, raised a hand to indicate that he or she favored a change.

It's nice to know who our "friends" are, I suppose, and who would prefer that we be shot down for holding hands in public in America rather than defending our country in uniform somewhere else. But I have to ask: Why is this the issue on which Democrats have decided to unite in our favor?

I know, I know--the ability to serve in the country's military is a cherished opportunity to serve. But shouldn't the nation deserve our defense before we rise to provide it? It's all well and good that Democrats have finally decided that a gay man or lesbian is fit to defend the country. But why should we decide to do so?

They've put things in the wrong order. The first step to first-class citizenship isn't being offered the chance to take a bullet for the team. It's being made an equal member of the team, one who can't be fired from a job, military or civilian, simply for being gay. It's being offered the same rights and privileges as other Americans, including the right to form a lasting relationship that the government will recognize. It's knowing that if you leave a partner behind when you serve, he or she will receive the same benefits as anyone else's left-behind spouse, both while you're overseas and in the unfortunate event of your death. Until these basic rights are guaranteed, I don't care whether we're asking or telling: I am telling you, I am not going. And neither should other gays and lesbians. When a Democrat brings forward serious legislation to end don't ask, don't tell, he or she should, at the very least, include:
  • a repeal of the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that forbids the federal government to recognize gay marriages, along with a requirement that it recognize any marriage or marriage-like institution into which states allow their citizens to enter, and apply that recognition to the tax system, Social Security, etc.;
  • the full provisions of the employment non-discrimination act, with protections for housing as well;
  • hate-crime language that makes gays and lesbians a protected class along with racial minorities;
  • and language that would create parity between the immigration law for same and opposite sex couples.
Is this so much to ask before we serve the country?

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