Sunday, 19 December 2010

A Groundbreaking Day

In case you missed it yesterday was a huge day for equal rights in the United States. The 18th of December 2010 was the day that witnessed the jumping of the final hurdle for the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' legislation for the US Armed Forces, a truly momentous occasion.

Back in 1993 when President Clinton was in the White House there were moves to remove the legislative barrier banning gay and bisexual men and women serving in the armed forces. Instead of an outright lifting of the ban however what was introduced was a half-measure designed in order to placate the conservative right of the country.

The alternative legislation which was introduced was called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) and in essence what it meant was that whilst superiors could not ask servicemen and women their sexual orientation if it became apparent that the serviceman (or woman) was LGBT then they would automatically be discharged from the services.

Since 1993 13,389 servicemen and women have been discharged from the US armed forces because of their sexuality.

What an indictment of a nation that nearly 14 thousand men and women, who were prepared to give their lives for their country, were ejected from their careers simply because of who they were.

Many on the conservative right argued that DADT was necessary to protect morale. Would any reasonable person suppose even for one minute that a LGBT serviceman was inferior to a heterosexual one? It's interesting to note that 889 of those discharged were from the elite Marine Corps, are we to suppose that that being gay made those servicemen and women more effeminate?

Were the conservative right concerned that LGBT servicemen could not control their urges? Who knows, but this assertion in itself is highly offensive. What on earth would make a gay man more likely to grope a colleague over a straight man doing the same to a female? The answer is, of course, nothing.

Whether we willingly accept it or not the USA are the leaders of the 'free world'. Their economic and military might are unparalleled and this civil rights anomaly was an indictment upon them.

President Obama has been criticised from all directions over many of his actions, however, undoubtedly in this one area alone he has elevated his position significantly as the protector of equal rights.

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