A textbook repeal, with intrigue

by Brian Clarey


The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Bill Clinton’s concession to our country’s most intolerant citizens, was not met with the same sense of elation — or repercussive violence — as the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the Senate made its historic 65-31 vote last week.

It’s understandable: The Civil Rights Act affected the everyday rights of huge swaths of Americans considered to be in the minority by virtue of race, religion or ethnicity. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell only hampered a fraction of the estimated 9 million or so gay Americans — the ones who wanted to serve in the military, and serve without lying about who they are.

But it’s another important step in or country’s progression towards equal rights for all, nonetheless.

The repeal is wholly necessary. DADT encourages obfuscation, secrecy, shame.

The repeal is wholly necessary. DADT encourages obfuscation, secrecy, shame. It assumes that our troops hold the same prejudices of much of our voting public, about half of which sees homosexuality as immoral, according to a 2008 Gallup poll. Fortunately, the bravest Americans, the ones willing to fight and die for our ideals, do not share in this hypocrisy: An October poll by the Pentagon of soldiers and their spouses showed that those who have the most on the line don’t really care about the sexuality of their fellow soldiers, and that the repeal would have virtually no effect on military operations both at home and abroad.

The vote makes clear that the United States will not tolerate discrimination in any of its institutions. But the meaning behind the Senate vote is less apparent.

For once, a Democrat majority used its heft to get all party members on the same side of the bill, albeit in the dying days of its tenure.

And eight Senate Republicans crossed over a starkly drawn party line to vote for the repeal of DADT, including North Carolina’s own Sen. Richard Burr, who during his campaign in the fall positioned himself as the most conservative member of the body.

Even now, Burr’s supporters and detractors are trying to figure out the reasons for his vote, and the senator’s own words leave much to interpretation.

He called the repeal “inevitable,” but in the same breath said, “I remain convinced that the timing of this change is wrong, and making such a shift in policy at a time when we have troops deployed in active combat areas does not take into consideration the seriousness of the situation on the ground.” He then backtracked again by calling his vote “the right thing to do.”

We prefer to believe that Burr’s final sentiment is the one that represents his true opinion, which means that maybe even the most conservative voice in the Senate knows when it’s time to play ball.

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