Julie MarshOn Saturday afternoon, my girls and I watched on C-SPAN as the Senate voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The issue was resolved quietly and with dignity -- a befitting end to a policy that does more harm than good.
I was genuinely pleased to observe more bipartisan support than expected in terms of votes cast. Eight Republican senators voted for the repeal, and I congratulate them for recognizing this as a civil rights issue. In 1964, both the majority of Republicans and Democrats -- over two-thirds, in fact -- in Congress supported the Civil Rights Act. I only wish the bipartisan support for this repeal had been as strong.
A few friends reminded me that outside Congress, widespread bipartisan support for the repeal exists. Most people do recognize that allowing gays to serve openly is a civil rights issue, not a political or religious matter. I received positive feedback on the repeal from friends all over the political and religious spectra.
Another friend reminded me that while Tea Party candidates Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell did not support the repeal, Senator-elect Pat Toomey cheered the repeal, as do many other Tea Party members who are far more invested in the movement's fiscal conservatism than its socially conservative bent. I wish more of them would voice their embrace of the repeal more loudly.
In the movie Biloxi Blues, one of the soldiers admits to the others that he's half black. Shortly thereafter, he's pulled out of formation and taken away, ostensibly to the brig. Our military was still racially segregated in World War II (coincidentally, that's why there are a ridiculous number of bathrooms in the Pentagon -- Jim Crow laws), and while he appeared to be white and had been an exemplary soldier, once the drill instructor realized he was black, he had to be removed.
That sounds ludicrous to us now. But that's essentially what happened to my gay friend, former Air Force Major Mike Almy, who never even told. His emails were searched, suspicious ones were reported to his commander, and he was pulled out of formation and taken away -- not to the brig, but escorted off the base by police after he returned to the states following his fourth deployment to the Middle East.
And yet, people think that's okay. Not just John McCain and Jon Kyl and Saxby Chambliss -- other friends of mine, former military officers themselves, don't see anything wrong with that. It's maddening.
Let Saturday's vote mark the beginning of a new era, one in which we will eventually regard the discharge of gay troops simply for being gay as being as ludicrous as any other sort of segregation.