Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DADT Is Repealed; Dream Is Undone

The Senate passed the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) after much drama and rhetoric echoed across the Chamber.  Despite dire warnings thundered by John McCain and other Republicans, several from his party crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats and Independents 65-31; President Obama and the Democrats can point to a much needed win.  It was the right thing to do.

And for those who complained about this decision being made in the lame duck session -- it was the Republicans who delayed any decision until after the Pentagon's long survey and study had been released.  In Congressional hearings recently when Secretary of Defense Gates and many senior military officials testified in favor of repeal, Senator McCain challenged their responses.  He got General Amos of the Marines -- who has been outspoken against changing this regulation to testify against any changes since "we are in war time and unit cohesion could be compromised."

Despite these words, this legislation has been long due.  In a country which has prided itself on showing the world how to be free, civil rights for the LGBT population have long been denied.  Some states and local governments have expanded civil rights.  The Federal Government has a fairness policy and anti-discrimination in hiring.  Despite studies which have shown that the American public has been supportive of repealing DADT, and younger generations are said to be more tolerant than their elders, we still see behaviors and bullying which have led to youth suicides.   More than 15,000 armed forces members have been dismissed over the tenure of this errant regulation.  The Center for American Progress recently published a cartoon which showed a casket being carried out of a Veterans Cemetery with the caption reading -- "they found out he was gay."   Doesn't that give you pause?  This cultural change has been compared to the integration of the military by President Truman after WW II.  There are obvious differences.  Race is generally -- but not always -- a visible and permanent characteristic.  Sexual orientation and gender preference is less casually determined. 

Some people choose to not broadcast their relationships, nor should they have to do so.  It is said that some military members have had long careers, living a dual existence very carefully.  The decision to come forward, should be a preference, but not be mandated.   The formal military policy changes should be implemented in a short while.  The generals have said that the military runs on discipline and rules will be followed. Some military members, who were dismissed honorably, are now being allowed to apply for re-enlistment.  Politics and cultural change sometime cross paths.

Shouldn't we be grateful, as a society, that we have so many patriots who care about this country, despite its lack of fairness, that they are willing to risk their lives to keep all of us free?

Unfortunately, the Dream Act did not become law in this Congress.  Again, Republican foot dragging and posturing against immigration reforms and civil rights for those born here or brought here as children was responsible, with help from a few Democrats.  The vote on this bill was 55 for and 41 against.  Now in what universe, is this not a majority vote?  Only in a place such as the US Senate which agreed that a majority is not a winning vote -- it must be a cloture-proof majority of 60 votes.  How Democrats ever got suckered into that one is something that remains inscrutable to most Americans.  The Senate, this plodding, deliberative body with a preponderance of millionaires could have demonstrated their populist appeal and understanding of "other classes" by passing this modest request for our newest Americans.  Instead, they denied both President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid an opportunity to make good on campaign promises made to Hispanic voters especially. 

Both sides know that the Hispanic vote has transitioned to the Democrats in recent elections.  Again this is a Civil Rights decision.  Again this is an area in which the many, deny the rights of the few -- but growing -- body of immigrants who have enriched our country in many ways.  Hopefully, the names of those who voted for and those who struck down this years attempt for the Dream Act, will be trumpeted across the land and all will be known.  Sadly, many young people who wanted to serve in our military and attend college will be harmed in real life by these partisan games.  Our economy would have been aided by the skills they might have earned.  Their families could have lived on a higher income scale. 

The short-sightedness of these decisions, in this economy belies the words voiced frequently, about equal opportunity and the promises of America made across the world.  While some say this is a reward for illegal behavior and should not become law, others wonder: should the child be punished for desperate actions taken by their parents?  Should we not reach out and try to pull these young people into the core of our communities?  Since we don't have this Federal Dream Act, I encourage others to develop these programs at the state and local levels.  Maryland already has a Dream Act on the docket for this year in which any legitimate graduate of a Maryland High School can receive in-state tuition, even if they do not have a U.S. birth certificate or green card.  It should receive support and be passed.  Montgomery County already allows such students to attend Montgomery College.  Isn't that the proper thing to do?

Let's hear from you on these two topics.  How should the Senate have voted in your opinion?  If you disagree with these decisions, what would you propose instead?

1 comment:

  1. DADT wasn't as much about civil rights as it was about the conundrum of being honest vs. hiding one's sexual identity. I am glad that bad law was repealed, and look forward to the time when it becomes active after review and approvals yet to come.

    The DREAM Act is indeed a civil rights matter, and much more work needs to be done. It's fine if we have it at the state level, but its unevenness in application across the country is unfair. To me, it's not right that a student can attend a college in Maryland but cannot do so in Virginia. But then again, there are a lot of backward, out-of-date laws in Virginia, which makes me glad to live in The Free State.


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