If you or someone you know is in the military, you may be aware that a survey went out to (I believe) all members of the armed forces asking their opinions on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. In addition, 150,000 randomly selected spouses were sent a similar survey. I was one of those picked to provide feedback on the potential repeal.
Now, reasonable people agree that employers have the right to discriminate in hiring based on certain criteria. For example, a hospital may require that employees hired to be physicians actually have a medical degree and be certified by a board. A fire department may require that firefighters meet a certain physical fitness level. We WANT employers to discriminate on such a basis. Nobody wants his appendix removed by an 18 year old high school graduate. Nobody wants a firefighter with an impaired arm running into his burning house to retrieve his sleeping child.
But reasonable people may disagree on whether the military may use sexual orientation to discriminate. If they can do the job, physically and mentally, then they should be able to serve, many argue. This is the same argument for women serving in the military. The fact that these employees serve in extremely close quarters for long periods of time, go off for a year or more together away from their families, and that many of these jobs require supreme trust in each other and that lives are at stake, does not matter to some people. And that’s fine.
If repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell were merely a matter of allowing gays to serve in the military, we could restrict the discussion to civil liberties and justice. But it’s not “just” about gays serving in the military. Oh, no.
The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell questionnaire I received began innocuously enough. Select which things motivated my husband to serve. Would a repeal make my husband more or less likely to remain in the military. Would a repeal make me more or less likely to recommend military service to others. If there were a repeal, select the ways in which I would prefer to be educated about the changes. Select the resources I would use if I had questions or concerns about the repeal.
And then, the survey asked me about housing and how I would feel about living in a neighborhood with a gay couple. It asked me about resources, services and support systems for military families and if I would be more or less likely to use them if gay couples used them.
For those of you not in the military, I must explain a few things about military life and being a military dependent. A soldier gets a base salary. On top of that, the soldier receives special pay depending on his/her job and duty location. The soldier also receives something called BAS, which is a food allowance. Lastly, soldiers receive BAH, or a housing allowance. The BAS is a flat rate per soldier (enlisted get more than officers) and is not tied to family members. The BAH is based on rank and on marital status. The higher you are in rank, the more you get. Married soldiers get more than unmarried soldiers (you do not get more if you have children).
If a soldier lives in military housing (on or off post) he will not receive the BAH. The rent of a military house equals the BAH. Single soldiers (generally) live in single soldier housing. Married soldiers live in family housing. An unmarried soldier with children will live in family housing if the children live with him/her. Girlfriends and boyfriends of soldiers do not have the right to live in military housing. If you want to shack up, you live in civilian housing off post.
If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed, it seems that the military will be required to accept not just gay service members, but gay couples and families as well. What does that mean in the big picture?
Right now, gay marriage and/or civil unions are legal in only eight states and DC. Thirty-six states have made it illegal (thirty have it in their constitution). If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and gay service members are granted recognition of their partners as military dependents, that is the same thing as having the federal government bless gay marriage.
This is, by the way, how segregation was destroyed in America. Most of the country was not segregated. Unfortunately, the South was, and the military was as well. It took a generation, but once the military enforced integration, it paved the way for the federal government to ban segregation nationwide. That was a good thing.
Segregation is wrong. Ending racial discrimination is good.
Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will give gay marriages and families federal recognition and federally funded privileges (housing, medical and life insurance, death benefits, and other services). This will completely undermine states’ efforts to protect and preserve traditional marriage, the foundation of society.
Destroying traditional marriage is not good. Therefore, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not good.