Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: don’t ask don’t tell


A banner year for same-sex couples and pot smokers

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

2012 was the year that Washington voters made history on the national stage.

This state became the first in the nation to allow same-sex marriages by virtue of voter approval, not through legislative or judicial action. And – for better or worse – voters made Washington one of two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana (Colorado is the other).

The Nov. 6 approval of Referendum 74 was an important step forward for civil rights and has galvanized proponents of same-sex marriage in other states. Passage affirms that a majority of this state’s voters believe homosexuals should have the same right to marry the one they love as heterosexuals – with all the benefits and responsibilities that go along with that right, at least at the state level.
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A landmark day for gays in the military – and for equality

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. Read more »


Pentagon study provides ammo: End ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

At some point, gays will be able to serve openly in the U.S. military. The question is: Will this Congress act to make it happen?

If not, there’s a good chance the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately force the issue. For the military’s sake, the legislative option is the better one. Policy made through the democratic process is almost always preferable to policy mandated by a court.

The new Pentagon study on gays in the military – which concludes that overturning the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule will not have a long-lasting, widespread impact on effectiveness – greatly increases the likelihood that the court would find no rational basis for the policy.

A survey of 115,000 service members shows that 50 percent to 55 percent said repealing the policy would have a mixed effect or no effect at all; 15 percent to 20 percent said it would have a positive impact. Only 30 percent said ending “don’t ask” would have a negative effect. Read more »


Back and forth on ‘don’t ask’ undermines order

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

So much for promoting good order and discipline. The longer the military’s indefensible “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy remains on the books, the more chaos it creates.

Just consider the past week’s developments:

• A federal judge ordered the military to immediately stop enforcing its ban on openly gay troops.

• When the judge didn’t back down, the Obama administration appealed to a higher court, asking for an immediate restoration of the policy.

• Meanwhile, the Pentagon told recruiters that they could accept openly gay and lesbian recruits.

• Recruiters were also asked to advise recruits that enlistment now is no guarantee of future service since the ban on gays could be reinstated at any time.

• Late Wednesday, a federal appeals court did just that, staying the injunction against don’t ask, don’t tell – but only temporarily.

What’s a potential recruit or already enlisted service member to do? Stay closeted, gay rights groups say.

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Maj. Witt’s legal win no remedy for ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A skilled Air Force flight nurse got the justice due her in a Tacoma courtroom Friday, but military order took a beating in the process.

Maj. Margaret Witt of Spokane won her fight to be reinstated four years after the military discharged her for being gay. U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that her presence did not adversely affect unit morale or cohesion.

It was the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard,” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 as a caveat to the military’s 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Witt easily met her namesake standard: Several members of her squadron testified that her firing hadn’t preserved unit morale, cohesion and troop readiness – it had hurt them.

Her legal win was, in Judge Leighton’s words, a victory in gays’ long fight for civil rights. It also was a setback for equal treatment and military discipline.

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Welcome – but insufficient – relief from ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Next month – more than four years after Maj. Margaret Witt was discharged from the Air Force for being gay – she may finally get the justice due her in a Tacoma courtroom.

A federal judge, in a trial set to begin Sept. 13, will apply a new standard to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This time, the burden will be on the military to prove not that Witt is a lesbian – her sexual orientation is not in dispute – but that her homosexuality is harmful to her unit’s cohesiveness.

It will be the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Obama administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal the 9th’s decision to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for the trial in U.S. District Court next month.

The facts are not on the government’s side: More than a dozen of Witt’s colleagues have given sworn declaration objecting to her dismissal; one was so angry that he refused to re-enlist.

Should the Witt standard blunt the don’t ask, don’t tell policy as expected, it could prove a boon to gay service members who have been waiting on Congress – to date, in vain.

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Ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be worth the wait

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The most fervent proponents of lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military worry a new compromise in Congress amounts to a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

But that is precisely the deal’s appeal.

The proposal strikes a delicate balance between setting a clear direction for military policy while honoring the Pentagon’s need for deliberate implementation. Legislation that gives the military breathing room is more likely to succeed than a summary congressional edict.

The White House and a small group of lawmakers struck the deal Monday. Their suggested compromise would repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – but the repeal would take effect only once the president and military leaders certified that it would not harm troop readiness, recruiting or retention.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave the legislation his endorsement, however grudgingly.

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