Repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' a civil rights issue

President Obama has endorsed a compromise between Congress and the Defense Department to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, an agreement that may sidestep a key obstacle to repealing the military’s policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

Three Libertarian candidates for Congress endorse repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and view it as a civil rights issue that should be handled by Congress and the Department of Defense.

Black and white soldiers at a base in Italy during World War II (U.S. Army Photo)

Some opponents of the policy compare the issue to the integration of the armed forces after World War II. In 1948 President Truman ordered the military departments to integrate, even though some generals, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley, and most Southern Democrats opposed integration.

Each of the military services also had separate branches for women, like the Women Army Corps. These were phased out and women were fully integrated into the regular command structure in the 1970s.

“Gays and lesbians can serve with honor in many military specialties and should have that opportunity, in our all-volunteer armed services,” said Lon Cecil, who’s running in the 12th Congressional District.

“While the Defense Department may have a few legitimate situations where gays and lesbians could serve only with unacceptable accommodations, the Navy agreement to put women in submarines should be a strong indication that any motivated person should be able to serve with honor in our military,” he said.

Voters in the distinct have told him clearly that “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed. “If I were in Congress, I would vote to eliminate DADT as a military policy,” he said.

The policy takes away all discretion from local commanders, leads to potential civil rights violations and forces dismissal of soldiers who performed in an exemplary manner, Cecil said.

“I think the military should take the lead in resolving this issue,” said Tom Rose, the Libertarian candidate in District 2.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, Rose’s Democratic opponent, recently voted against an amendment to a Defense appropriations bill that would have repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“There have been gays and lesbians in ever branch of the military since the earliest beginnings of this country and some have died for this country,” Rose said. “Those who are serving now are willing to fight and die for their country. They should be treated the same as all other military personnel in all matters.”

District 3 candidate Daryl Holloman agrees this is a civil rights issue and thinks Congress should take the lead to change the policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces.

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