On Tuesday, a Federal District judge in Riverside, California, issued an injunction barring the U.S. military from enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has been in place since the Clinton administration. The order puts a freeze on discharges from the military due to sexual orientation.
Some people may be surprised by my thoughts on this but I say it’s time to change that law. Homosexuals have been serving in the military, mostly in the closet, for as long as we’ve had a military. Their service is, and has been no less honorable than any heterosexual person but they have been forced to hide their true identities from all but their closest friends.
When I was a Staff Sergeant and Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge I supervised several openly gay people. They didn’t flaunt it in public but they weren’t really secretive about it either. And they were all extremely conscientious and dedicated workers. They did their jobs as required and their sexual orientation never was an issue. One gay man, who was a cook in the dining room, was everyone’s favorite cook because he was always happy, friendly and ready to make you the meal you wanted. I could probably make some sick joke about that but this is a serious subject. Eventually, someone complained about these people and they were discharged from the service, despite their dedication.
I’ve heard the arguments against gays serving in the military. Usually it’s something like “Our straight soldiers don’t want to take showers with gay men” or “They don’t want to be in a foxhole with a gay guy.” These people act as though homosexuals go around sexually assaulting straight people on a regular basis. If a homosexual can’t shower with straight men without jumping on them they’ll have problems long before they get to the military. And if they do make unwanted sexual advances toward someone in the shower or in a foxhole, there are regulations against that for all military members, straight or gay. That type of behavior would be grounds for disciplinary action and possible discharge for anyone who did it.
Everyone in the military is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and is responsible for their behavior. Military members must behave in a manner acceptable to society as well as acceptable to the military, so they’re governed by two sets of rules. Anyone, gay or straight, who can’t abide by those rules will be unacceptable to the military and won’t be kept around for long.
It’s time to change the law and allow anyone and everyone who qualifies for military service the chance to serve their country. Patriotism and protecting America isn’t limited by sexual orientation. And neither should qualification to serve.
My question about this entire issue is not whether or not gays should be allowed to serve in the military but whether a Federal District Court judge has the authority to overrule Federal law. I know the Supreme Court can rule something unconstitutional but does a District Court judge have that authority? If judges at that level can overrule a Federal law, why do we need a Supreme Court? For that matter, why leave lawmaking up to Congress if a district judge can change it? Sonia Sotomayor made a joke once about legislating from the bench (that wasn’t really a joke). I’m curious as to whether this ruling will stand and whether this district judge can dictate to the military what they can and can’t do. If anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know.