“The military is now able today to take greater pride in their record on diversity and their mission, which is to defend our nation’s freedom.”
These are the words of Danny Ingram, one of the first soldiers discharged from the military under the law banning homosexual men and women from serving openly in the military, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The controversial law has been repealed for slightly over a year now, and the LGBT community has seen this as major progress in the long fight for equality of citizens regardless of their sexual orientation but reminds them that there is still a long way to go.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was originally implemented under the Clinton administration and made into law by Congress, in order to stop the ban on gay service members in the military, under the condition that they cannot openly share their sexuality while in the armed forces.
According to Ingram, president of the American Veterans for Equal Rights, Clinton was met with “huge pushback” when he first worked to stop the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, but now there has been a strong shift in the public opinion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
A national Gallup Poll taken in December 2010, around the same time the act repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was passed, showed that 67 percent of U.S. citizens would support a law that allowed for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Similar sentiments were expressed around campus then and now.
When asked if she thought that the military had changed since the repeal, freshman biology major Sabrina Rodriguez said, “I think it’s about the same. It shouldn’t matter, your sexuality.”
“I think it should have been repealed,” said Patrick Antos, a senior photography major. “I don’t think it made a lot of change since it’s been repealed, maybe just more openness, more tolerance.”
The nation has been keeping a watchful eye to see if the military would suffer due to a decrease in morale, but there have yet to be any negative consequences to the newly open military in the last year, according to Ingram.
“If a soldier were to be injured on the battlefield and he was going to die and the medic that came to save his life was gay, his morale is going to be a hell of a lot better being alive and having his life saved by a gay medic than dying because that gay medic wasn’t there,” Ingram said. “Also, if you have a unit out in the field and they’re working very hard, [then] you kick somebody out, somebody has got to take over their work. That’s bad for morale.”
Ingram went on to say that although the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a step in the right direction, there are still actions that need to be taken to have full equality for the LGBT community, most notably recognizing the transgender community.
Although gays, lesbians and bisexuals are allowed to now serve in the military without hiding their sexual orientation, transgender people are not allowed to serve in the military at all. People in same-sex relationships in the military still do not receive the same advantages that people in heterosexual relationships receive.
“Gay and lesbian and bisexual people in the military are not able to get the same benefits to cover their partners that heterosexual people are able to get. And that is a huge thing in the military, because benefits are such a big part of military service,” Ingram said. “So there’s still a very long way to go in gaining equality for gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the military.”
Still, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been seen as a victory in terms of equality and sets the precedent for how a nation can function, according to Ingram.
“The U.S. military claims to have the best trained service members in the world, the most disciplined service members in the world, and this experience has shown that our military is certainly as good as anyone else’s and we are second to none.”
Published January 17, 2012 in The Signal: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: One Year Later”