Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
DON'T ASK DON'T TELL UPDATE
We are all aware of the US military’s policy of “Don’t ask – Don’t tell.” This policy has been in place since 1994. Over 10,000 individuals have been discharged from the Armed Forces for coming out of their military locker and publicly embracing their God-given sexuality.
The military, with exception of the Air Force, is in a crunch for manpower however, since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Has this made a difference on how the “Don’t ask – Don’t Tell” policy is enforced? You bet your body bag it has.
According to a report by an advocacy group, the military discharges for admitting one’s sexuality had increased steadily from 1994 through 1998. It dipped a little in 1999, only to increase again until hitting a high-water mark of 1,273 discharges in 2001. Last year, our Armed Forces found only 787 gays and lesbians unfit for service - drop of 17% from 2002 and a fall of 39% from 2001. What’s the story? Are more gays and lesbians staying in the locker?
Not really. The Army is strapped for manpower. It’s so stretched by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and its missions elsewhere that it’s had to use its “stop-loss” authority to keep people from departing the service. This directive allows the Army to prevent soldiers from either retiring or leaving the military when their service obligations end. Considering the Army’s personal problems, one can understand why openly gay and lesbian soldiers are no longer being removed from the ranks.
Of course, this flies in the face of the “Don’t ask – Don’t tell” policy which recommends dismissal of openly gay soldiers for reasons concerning unit cohesion. One would think that unit cohesion would be of more importance during a war than during peace, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Gays and lesbians are now good enough to be on active duty, filling a billet where they might have to give their lives for a country who won’t even allow them to marry.
I say so much for the rationality of the military policy concerning gays. It’s about time something is done about the “Don’t ask – Don’t tell” policy. If gays are good enough to die for their country during a war, they ought to be good enough to serve their country during peace time as well – whether they stay in the locker or not. Gay and lesbian soldiers have proved that they’re not in the Army to attempt to have sex with their barracks mates, but to obey orders and attack the enemies of their country.
Personally, I’m proud of all our soldiers and I wish those who are gay and lesbian could publicly stand up and be role models for our community.
©2004 Marcia Ellen "Happy" Beevre
Monday, June 28, 2004 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
DO WE REALLY WANT "MARRIAGE"?
Jo Ann Citron brought up a good point concerning marriage in the March/April issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review. She views marriage as a “regressive institution that has never been good to women.” How many of us who are striving to make marriage legal for gays have thought about that? Even as a historian, I hadn't considered that fact.
For many years, up to and including today, marriages were arraigned. The father made a deal and his daughter, with no choice in the matter, was married to whoever was chosen for whatever the reason. The wife was considered the property of the husband, to do with as he pleased. In many cultures men were allowed more than one wife, or at least allowed to have as many concubines to augment his wife as he desired. The submission of married women to her husband is recognized by no less authority than the Bible itself. In some cultures women are forced to walk behind their husbands or wear veils over their faces. The idea that men own their wives still survives today, even in America.
Women instigate more than 75% of today’s divorces. That’s a staggering figure that you might not be aware of. In studies, single women are found to be happier than married women. While the reasons for this can be highly individual, the modern shift to two parent careers seems to weigh heavily on married women. Not only are married women responsible for their jobs, when they get home they have the responsibility of the house and children. Since inflation has made it almost impossible for a family to exist on one income, married women have become increasingly unhappy with the role they’re left with in today’s family.
When you consider the above, perhaps marriage isn’t what gays and lesbians should be striving to attain. But if not marriage, what? Can we define what we really want? Equality?
It is unfortunate that marriage is both a civil and a religious institution. In our country where church and state issues are kept relatively separate, marriage is an oddity. Each state has the right to make laws concerning at what age and to whom a person may or may not take as a partner. Each state issues licenses to make that partnership contractual. Each state requires either a civil or religious ceremony presided over by an official of the state or authorized church representative and witnessed by family or citizens.
The question becomes, why can’t the states simply issue their licenses to individuals who meet state standards? This way, if people (including straights) prefer a civil union over a church marriage they could have what they want. Both would include equal rights under the law, such as portability from state to state as well as federal tax and estate concessions. Civil authorities would be allowed to preside over ceremonies for any couple with a license. Marriage would be left to the churches. Religious institutions could marry whomever they please, at the discretion of individual churches or denominations. Or their ministers could preside over state civil unions if their denomination allow it.
There would have to be some paperwork changes as well. The words “married” and “spouse” would disappear from job applications and tax forms with appropriate terms being substituted. But all-in-all, this would not be a major problem to institute.
If such a system were in place, could two lesbians partnered under civil union say they were married? Of course they could. We do it now. What’s important is who the states and the federal government recognize as being partnered.
The problem is NOT that people want to force civil unions on gays and lesbians. The problem IS that those same people want to continue giving greater federal and state rights to those allowed to marry. This is what’s discriminatory and must be eradicated by law.
I can’t understand the rationale of elected officials who support that stance.
©2004 Marcia Ellen "Happy" Beevre