Criticism of DADT repeal is unfounded
President Obama had some choice words for the 2012 Republican presidential candidates last Saturday. While speaking at the annual Human Rights Campaign fundraising dinner, he rebuked the candidates on their silence in a debate after a gay soldier asked a question about DADT and was booed by several audience members.
“We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders — one of whom could end up being the president of the United States — being silent when an American soldier is booed,” Obama said.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who was asked the question during the debate, said that the repeal of DADT gives gay service members a “special privilege” not given to straight service members, that it is a form of social experimentation, and that it “tries to inject social policy into the military.”
However, when did granting a minority group equality turn into giving them a special privilege? Our founding fathers believed that all men were “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The ability to serve openly in the military is one of them, and should not be viewed as a special privilege.
A parallel can be drawn between the repeal of DADT and the desegregation of the military in the 1940s. This is not to say that discrimination based on race and discrimination based on sexual orientation are the same thing — they are two distinct categories that should not be grouped together. It is in the rhetoric of those who were opposed to the desegregation of the military and those who are in favor of DADT that the similarity can be found.
In 1942, The Navy General Board issued a report on the potential effects of desegregating the military.
“How many white men would choose, of their own accord, that their closest associates in sleeping quarters, at mess, and in a gun’s crew should be of another race? How many would accept such conditions, if required to do so, without resentment and just as a matter of course?” The Navy General Board wrote.
This is similar to the argument many people continue to make against the repeal of DADT, even though a 2010 Pentagon review of the policy found that “the risk of repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to overall military effectiveness is low.”
President Harry Truman must have known the same when he issued an executive order in 1948 to desegregate the military. Only 26 percent of Americans at the time were in favor of his decision. The fact that 63 percent of Americans at the time favored the racial segregation of the military indicates that this was social experimentation on the part of Truman — something Santorum thinks is a bad idea. But could you say that this type of social experimentation is wrong?
It was not until the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964 that racial discrimination in America ended, at least theoretically, on a national scale. That was 16 years after the military ended racial segregation. It is safe to assume that the social experimentation of the military gradually changed the opinion of desegregation over the course of those 16 years. According to a Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans were in favor of desegregation at the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
According to a Gallup poll published after the repeal of DADT, 67 percent of Americans supported the repeal. When you compare that to the 63 percent of Americans who were against the desegregation of the military in 1948, it becomes evident that there has been much social progress in the US over the last 63 years.
Gay US service members should rest assured that those who booed the gay soldier during the debate are in the minority. This is because America’s opinion of the LGBT community is changing. According to a Gallup poll from May of this year, 53 percent of Americans are in favor of same sex marriage. If you break it down by age, 70 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are in favor of gay marriage, but only 39 percent of people who are 55 or older are in favor.
The Republican presidential candidates need to realize that if the Republican Party wishes to remain relevant in the 21st century, it needs to stop catering to the bigots of its party.
Social change is coming to the US. Obama seems to know this, but the GOP can’t seem to figure this out.
The GOP can survive for a few more years by catering to the prejudices of older voters, but those voters will soon be replaced by a generation of voters less open to the idea of blatant discrimination — in any area.
Daniel Renfrow is a senior anthropology and print journalism double major and may be reached at [email protected]