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A landmark day for gays in the military – and for equality

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm with No Comments »
September 19, 2011 4:46 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

It’s a new world for the U.S. military today, and for the people serving in it.

It’s a world that took too long to come about, but now that it’s here, it’s worth celebrating.

Today, gays and lesbians – who have always served in the military and died alongside their heterosexual comrades – no longer need to fear that they’ll be kicked out if a supervisor learns about their sexuality. They can put a photo of their partner on their desk, go out on a date and do all the other things their straight counterparts have always taken for granted.

Even though the military says it will not tolerate anti-gay behavior, some homosexuals probably will continue to keep their sexuality private, just as many gay employees do in workplaces outside of the military. But many others will welcome the fact that they no longer have to hide their true selves or the ones they love.

In the long run, the military will be better for it. Stretched thin by two wars, it can’t afford to waste valuable human resources. Now it can focus on how to retain service members, not how to kick them out.

Before today, homosexuals were never officially allowed to serve in the military. But in 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law the policy that came to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which had the effect of allowing gays to serve as long as they kept their sexuality secret. Thousands of service members were discharged since the policy began because their sexuality came to light.

There have been dire predictions that allowing gays to openly serve will be detrimental to unit cohesion. But other countries – including close allies Great Britain, Canada and Australia  – experienced few problems when they began allowing gays to serve.

The U.S. military is the best in the world; certainly it will capably deal with this latest challenge. Most service members have undergone training on the Defense Department regulations, and commanders insist that the transition will be smooth.

Partners of military members – even those legally married in states that allow homosexuals to wed – will not enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. But being allowed to openly serve is a giant step forward.

All who support an egalitarian society have cause to celebrate this landmark day in American history.

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