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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Obama commits to repealing ban on gays in military

    A new year. A new Democratic president, taking office after an extended period of Republican rule, eager to prove himself to an anxious country. And a bold promise to end a decades-old injustice.

    That was President Bill Clinton in 1993. His attempt to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay members turned into a nightmare, with the new president facing criticism from all corners. It ended in a frustrating compromise, with the president faltering in the face of determined conservative opposition and throwing his support behind the famous “”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”” compromise, which allows gay people to serve as long as they conceal their sexual orientation.

    Now, 15 years later, a new Democratic president is set to try again.

    During a YouTube Q&A session, future White House Secretary Robert Gibbs answered a question about whether Obama would seek to repeal the ban this way: “”You don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much. But it’s ‘Yes.’ “”

    Obama made repealing the ban part of his platform, but there was no reason to think he would make it a priority. Since winning the election in November, Obama’s public statements have largely focused – understandably – on the economic crisis, and there’s no reason to think any other issue will eclipse that one any time soon.

    All the same, we applaud Obama’s commitment to this issue. He doesn’t have to worry about facing the kind of backlash that met Clinton; Americans are too busy dealing with their very real problems to be distracted by the “”threat”” supposedly posed by gays in the military.

    There was a time when this announcement would have provoked as much anger as approval, as much anxiety as applause. In 1993, only 44 percent of Americans supported the idea of allowing openly gay people to serve.

    We live in a different country now. A July 2008 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 75 percent of Americans supported repealing the ban. Only a small minority of Americans still oppose an unconditional ban on gays in the military, and it’s fair to say that a lot of the support for the current policy comes from those who think that one’s sexual orientation is none of the government’s business.

    That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that a gay person can’t serve his or her country without fearing the constant threat of exposure and mandatory expulsion. According to the Washington Times, about 12,500 people have been discharged from the military for revealing their sexual orientation since the onset of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

    That’s a travesty. If a person’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with how he or she serves – which is the clear implication of DADT -ÿwhy make it an issue at all? Why are we telling people who are willing to give their lives for their country that they ought to be ashamed of who they are?

    The answer is simple: There was a time when society disapproved so strongly of homosexuality that this disapproval was reflected in its laws. But that society has changed, and our laws should reflect that.

    Whatever one’s opinion of his other policies might prove to be, this is one area where the new president deserves our full-blooded support.

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