News / USA

Gay Americans Seek Change Beyond End of Military Ban

A member of the audience hugs President Barack Obama at the Interior Department in Washington after he signed the
A member of the audience hugs President Barack Obama at the Interior Department in Washington after he signed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal legislation that would allow gays to serve openly in the military, 22 Dec 2010

Multimedia

Audio
Michael Bowman

Ending the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service is one of several goals put forth by homosexuals as well as a growing number of heterosexuals who embrace equal rights for gay people.  Observers say the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could have a ripple effect on battles surrounding same-sex marriage, and accelerate polling trends that show increasing acceptance of gay people by society at large.

Moments after Saturday's vote repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," senators of both parties lauded gay troops for their service and sacrifice.

"I want to thank all of the gay men and women that are fighting for us today in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  We honor your service, and now we can do so openly," said Republican Susan Collins of Maine.

Gay service members targeted under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" speak of repeal as a cathartic and healing event.  Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach flew combat missions over Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and was hand-picked to patrol the skies over Washington on September 11, 2001.

"I felt like a second-class citizen [under the policy], and I think today is a great day, and not just for gay Americans.  It is a great day for the country and the military as a whole," said Fehrenbach.  "I feel like more of an American today, and I feel prouder of my country than I have in years."

Although far from pleased, even staunch repeal opponents acknowledge the societal implications of allowing openly-gay service.  Retired Army Colonel Robert Maginnis speaks on military affairs for the Family Research Council, which lobbies against the expansion of gay rights.

"This [repeal] is Congress' stamp of approval of homosexuality," said Maginnis.  "I think the courts will pay attention to that, and I think the broader culture will pay attention to that."

Gay rights battles extend beyond military service.  Many gay Americans also seek the right to civil marriage, which is currently allowed in only a handful of states and the nation's capital, and is not recognized at the federal level.  Exclusion from marriage denies gay couples many benefits their heterosexual peers take for granted, from joint tax-filing privileges to survivorship rights for Social Security benefits.

Lower federal courts have found the U.S. law preventing recognition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.  Another federal court has similarly ruled against a California ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage.  These cases are being appealed, and are expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Georgetown University law professor Nan Hunter says the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will not go unnoticed by judges and justices deciding other gay rights issues.

"This particular change will have a big impact, because there has historically been so much symbolism associated with military service, and concepts of citizenship and responsibility," noted Hunter.

Hunter adds that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to judicial decisions.

"It does not mean that a judge is going to say, 'Gosh, the Senate repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, so let's rule this way,'" Hunter explained.  "That is not the way it works.  But unquestionably the old days of being able to assume that gay people are immoral and therefore entitled to less protection [under the law] - those days are over."

Public-opinion polls show an evolution towards greater acceptance of homosexuality and gay people. Pew Research Center survey director Scott Keeter says young Americans are the most supportive of gay rights.

"What is happening is every new generation that comes along is more tolerant, more accepting, more comfortable with this kind of diversity," said Keeter.

Keeter thinks gay people's increasing willingness to be open and honest about their sexuality has had a huge impact on public perceptions.

"Many more people today than in the past say they know someone who is gay or lesbian, that they have a close friend or family member who is gay," added Keeter.  "And that has had the effect of dispelling stereotypes and making people more comfortable."

Keeter notes that conservative opposition to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been muted compared to the furious, polarized debate surrounding same-sex marriage.  Keeter says it is possible that gay rights have lost potency as political wedge issues or that military service does not evoke the same passions as the institution of marriage or that U.S. preoccupations about economic matters have crowded divisive social issues out of the national spotlight.  

Whatever the political backdrop, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is unquestionably a watershed event for gay rights in America.  Some see it as a landmark event for civil rights overall.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More