Silver Chips Online

All's not fair in love and war

October 7, 2010
This article was written by the Silver Chips Print Editorial Board and is intended to represent the official views of the newspaper.

"All men are created equal." "One nation…with liberty and justice for all." "No state shall…deny to any person...the equal protection of the laws." These patriotic phrases have always been universally accepted as truth. Yet every day, as children study the Declaration of Independence and stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, the law that forces thousands of men and women in uniform to hide their homosexuality directly contradicts American principles of liberty and equality.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, passed in 1993 as a compromise on the issue of homosexuals in the military, prohibits the military from asking service members about their sexual orientation and allows gays to serve only if they refrain from discussing or acting upon their homosexuality. On Sept. 21, the Senate was unable to muster a 60-vote majority to override a Republican filibuster on the signing of a defense spending bill that included a provision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This particular provision would have gone into effect only after a Pentagon study, due for completion by Dec. 1, confirmed that the repeal wouldn't harm military morale.

While only three Democrats joined Republicans in the vote against cloture (including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev,) who strategically did so in order to preserve his right to bring the motion to a vote again in the future), several moderate republicans originally in support of the policy's repeal made the last-minute decision to side with their party line. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted against cloture because she disagreed with Reid's decision to prohibit amendments and limit debate on the bill. And though her decision led to a disheartening result, her sentiments highlight Democrats' lack of planning, a mistake for which the GOP isn't to blame.

Feeling a time crunch due to the upcoming elections and Obama's promise to repeal the policy once he took office, liberals decided to stuff "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" into the defense spending package, along with a variety of other controversial policies. This hasty action proved a fatal miscalculation, however, as Democrats went too far in daring Republicans to block an annual bill that is usually passed.

If Democrats had gotten their act together to bring "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to a vote in the spring of 2010, with political momentum from votes in favor of the repeal by both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the long-overdue repeal may have had a better shot. There would have been ample time for lobbying and debate on the matter, which likely would have allowed Democrats a better chance to secure moderate votes. Additionally, the looming elections wouldn't have been as much of a factor for senators worried about losing their seats due to a contentious vote.

Despite these Democratic blunders, Americans cannot ignore the blatant Republican manipulation of the legislative process. The Founding Fathers clearly wrote - and intended - that only a simple majority be necessary to pass a bill through the House or the Senate, yet nowadays almost nothing passes without a 60-vote override of a filibuster. And since the GOP refuses to work in a bipartisan manner, America remains frozen in its current legislative state without the chance to progress and keep up with rapidly changing times.

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done at the moment to rectify the situation, at least until after the election, when the lame-duck session may provide an opportunity for reconsideration. America's overstretched military cannot afford to turn away such an enormous population of skilled, patriotic citizens for much longer. Democrats, especially Obama, must do a better job lobbying for support of the repeal in the coming weeks before the re-vote to ensure that this abhorrent policy will cause no further harm.