Gay Rights News

Two separate gay rights-themed links from the latest addition to my blogroll, Pam’s House Blend:

John Shalikashvili, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs back when the US military enacted Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, has changed his position to letting gays openly serve in the military. In an op-ed in the New York Times, he wrote,

When I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I supported the current policy because I believed that implementing a change in the rules at that time would have been too burdensome for our troops and commanders. I still believe that to have been true. The concern among many in the military was that given the longstanding view that homosexuality was incompatible with service, letting people who were openly gay serve would lower morale, harm recruitment and undermine unit cohesion.


Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.

This perception is supported by a new Zogby poll of more than 500 service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, three quarters of whom said they were comfortable interacting with gay people. And 24 foreign nations, including Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism, let gays serve openly, with none reporting morale or recruitment problems.

I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.

Some of Pam’s commenters complain that Shalikashvili’s calls for concentrating on other problems first and only then repealing DADAT reek of excessive moderation of the type Martin Luther King attacked in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. But what was true in 1963 wasn’t necessarily true in 1952.

MLK-style direct action works only after many people have recognized that the problem exists; that even centrists like Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani support letting gays serve openly suggests that the first stage of social justice activism, that analogous to NAACP litigation, is proceeding quickly. Only when enough people recognize the problem, which is still not the case, will the second stage, that analogous to MLK-style activism, become feasible.

Meanwhile, In Massachusetts, the state legislature voted to put a gay marriage ban to a popular vote, then voted to reconsider, and then voted to put it on the ballot again. The State House Speaker explained,

Today a minority of legislators voted to advance a proposal that takes away the civil rights those couples are guaranteed to under our constitution. This initiative petition is offensive and deplorable.

The measure passed 62-134 in the final vote; only 50 votes were needed to pass, since the vote would only declare a referendum on the issue. An old poll from 2003 says that residents of Massachusetts support gay marriage 59-35, while mentions a poll from 2005 saying that 62% of the people in Massachusetts support SSM.

I don’t normally support voting on people’s rights, but when I know beforehand the result will be positive, I think it’s politically beneficial. One of the main arguments of anti-SSM people has been that it’s the people’s will to discriminate against gays and lesbians; every electoral and legislative success reduces their ability to make this appeal. Although Massachusetts is just one state, it’s likely that the vote will normalize SSM among Americans outside the state, just like court rulings do.

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