The military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in under fire once again. A federal judge overturned the policy, stating that the military could not discriminate against gays. President Obama, who campaigned on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is both for and against the policy. He wants to end it, but it's the Department of Justice is defending it in court. Why? Don't ask, because they won't tell.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was always a compromise. The military would officially allow gays and lesbians in uniform, as long as they didn't publicly admit their sexual orientation. At the same time, the military couldn't investigate the sexual orientation of a servicemember except where there was "credible information" about someone's sexuality. The policy came about in the early 1990s when some wanted to maintain an outright ban on homosexuality in the military, while others wanted the ban lifted. Instead, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" became the operative policy.
Now, a federal judge created a worldwide injunction against the policy, which was only recently stayed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the military has said, at least for now, that they will allow openly gay servicemembers to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Even though the Department of Justice is officially fighting on the side of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" it doesn't look like the policy will survive, especially when the Commander in Chief has come out so strongly against it.
It's true that having gays in the military is not a novel concept. Israel, for one, allows open homosexuality in the military, and some military intelligence units are known to have large numbers of gay soldiers. And history is replete with examples of homosexuality and military service. In Plato's Symposium, Phaedras writes that "no man is such a craven that the influence of Love cannot inspire him with a courage that makes him equal to the bravest born." The idea was that a soldier would fight more strongly for someone they were in love with than someone they weren't. Which, when you think about it, explains why all the Spartans in "300" ran around in loincloths. (And yes, I quoted Plato… gotta use that expensive liberal arts education for something…)
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