Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Military "don't ask don't tell" gay ban debate heats up in 2007

The debate over the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military does seem to be heating up again.

SLDN expects to present arguments to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Cook v. Gates (previously Cook. V. Rumsfeld) this spring. This is a case represented twelve veterans who “came out” during the current war on terror.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvilli, wrote an op-ed in the January 2, 2007 New York Times, in which he suggested that the time may have come for Congress to reconsider the policy carefully. Still, his piece is overshadowed by what he sees as a pragmatic concern of military commanders, whether military units can accept openly gay members in the ranks in some situations involving forced intimacy. He believes that societal attitudes have shifted significantly during the past decade and a half, to the point that they will. Even so, there is an overall tone in his argument that cedes to the preconceptions or prejudices of others, as had the segregation of the military by race until 1948, when Truman integrated the military (well dramatized in the 1996 film “Truman” with Gary Sinese).

Congress has enormous pressures in accommodating public concerns over the appropriateness of this government’s conduct of the war in Iraq in particular, which has to be kept in perspective against other issues (like Iran and North Korea). Still, the spirit of the debate now includes a concern over the way the sacrifice of military service is being shared, with multiple callups for reservists, with the demographics of who serves, and even with a remote possibility of reinstituting the draft. All of this debate would raise the question of whether gay men and lesbians are allowed to step up to the plate and shoulder the burdens of defending freedom.

Mary Meehan will re-introduce a bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, to overturn “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

The military ban can indirectly raise serious questions about the employment of open gays in certain other sensitive areas, such as jobs requiring custodial care of non-intact people of the same gender. The reasoning (the “rebuttable presumption” and “propensity” clauses), as codified into US Code in 1993, can set dangerous precedents in free speech cases in other areas.

I have, on my own drawing boards, a novel in which the DADT policy plays an important part of the plot. It would be ironic (for me, given my own life) if it the policy could be overturned before I could get the manuscript agented.

SLDN's fact sheet on the 2005 bill HR 1059 is here (pdf format), text here (pdf)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Redux: marriage amendment proposed in my book in 1997

I have gotten some questions about the constitutional amendments propose my ten year old book “Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back.”

There were two such amendments proposed in Chapter 6 of the 1997 book, and this blog entry is about the second of these, which reads (link here):

Section 1.
No state will be required, under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to honor a marriage made in another state if that marriage would not have been valid in the subject state.
Section 2.
The federal government is not bound by the marriage laws of any state in characterizing a marriage relationship for purposes of defining any federal tax liabilities or benefits or entitlements under federal law.
(TWENTY-EIGHT was a different and longer amendment.)

Of course, we have seen a couple of attempts by the Bush administration to protect “the sanctity of marriage” from “activist judges” by a constitutional amendment defining marriage as possible only between one man and one woman. So far, nothing has come close to a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate to get started (the biggest attempt happened in the summer of 2004).

The amendment that I proposed in 1997 was to encourage states to experiment on their own with various forms of domestic partnerships and civil unions. Of course, fully equal marriage rights would be the goal, but I was hoping that there could be a climate in which there could be advances. As we know, this has not gone well, as a number of states have amended their own constitutions to outlaw gay marriage and, sometimes, even civil unions (as in Virginia with Marshall-Newman). But my idea then (in 1997) was to encourage or take advantage of federalism and encourage some diversity among the states as an approach to this divisive social issue.

The amendment would seem to protect DOMA (the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act). Of course, I don't like DOMA, but oddly anti-amendment forces have had to argue that DOMA already protects states from FF&C challenges in from other states.

(The other proposed amendment is discussed at this blog entry.)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

General Shali on military don't ask don't tell

John Shalikashvili, who retired in 1997 after four years as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Clinton, has now changed course and argues for repealing, for the most part, “don’t ask don’t tell”. Here is the AP story.

There were a couple of other major editorials recently:

"Rethinking Don't Ask: Military Closet" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, NJ “Gays Serving in Military Shouldn’t Have to Hide.”

Of course, those who have followed the policy for the past 14 years know there is a lot to tell here, as some commanders turned it into “do ask, don’t tell.”

This whole debate in the 1992-1993 period gave me a wakeup in the idea of equality, as HRC symbolizes it with the blue and yellow logo often seen on car bumpers everywhere.

In September 1992, after a book signing at Lambda Rising in Washington of Joseph Steffan’s Honor Bound (Villard), in which the former midshipman accounts for how he was discharged from the Naval Academy for “telling” in 1987 when he would have graduated about third in his class, -- and after reading the book in one evening -- I came to see overturning the ban as a beginning to equality for myself. I had undergone a similar experience at a civilian college (William and Mary) in 1961, and the parallels seem striking to me. My review is here.

Even with a volunteer military, I saw the capability to serve in the military as a marker of social equality. That attitude was a leftover from the days of the Vietnam draft and the furor over student deferments. (Now, we have the backdoor draft in Iraq, and even remote talk of restoring the draft.)

Somehow, if someone like Steffan, who had repeatedly proved himself, even spending a summer on a submarine, could serve in the military, semi-covertly (to avoid disturbing the “privacy” of other soldiers in a forced intimacy environment), that would be a major step toward equality and redemption for me.

That’s a long way from real equality, of course. We really see the equality idea come up with gay marriage. But the listing of benefits misses a major point. Heterosexual sex can lead to procreation and a “natural” access to responsibility for others, which can sometimes lead to the supposed “right” to make hidden demands that impose on the freedom of others who don’t create the same responsibility.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mandatory socialization?

I was one of those boys who had trouble with the “guy things” – the team sports, the manual chores done to precision. I felt that I was being forced to play the game of life by other people’s rules to suit their purposes. I did learn to enjoy softball in time, but I would manipulate the rules in my own backyard so that I could “win.”

Being “different” I spent a lot of energy focusing on my own performance and needs (yup, as an only child). You get the picture. The whole point of family socialization is to make someone like more emotionally responsive to others when they need the response (sometimes to the point of pampering, fitting notions of gender complementarity). This gets into the heavy old fashioned moralizing. You can’t take your freedom for granted, sometimes you have to live in a way not of your choosing (because of adverse exogenous circumstances or because of the “will of God”) and accept the goals of others as if they were your own. It gets very personal. This gets into the psychology of what ex-gay advocates mean when they talk about “changing” people. Take the most personal part of one’s being, and make it responsive to the demands of others.

Then, I ask, why do others have a right to make me respond to their needs? I know you can interpret a question like this in various ways. Defining one’s own purposes seems like the heart of freedom, and has come to be accept as the heart of libertarian philosophy.

The best way to help others is to be able to help yourself first, and follow the path in life that you decide is right for you first. Sometimes others will not let you, and this is what so many political struggles are about.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriagee would define second class status for some people

There may be more to say on these blogs in the next few days about constitutional amendment proposals and processes (both state and federal).

But one thing stands out whenever a state constitution defines marriage (as one man and one woman) and implies that marriage will give its participants certain privileges. The problem is the implication that those who are unmarried (or who cannot marry a consenting adult of their choosing) can be expected to defer or "sacrifice" to meet the needs of the married if conditions are demanding enough. That is, as a constitutional matter, they have second class citizen status. This may not mean much in practice until there are specific needs or hardships. But as Jonathan Rauch often writes, a singleton is an "accident waiting to happen."

(Picture: Paleigh Tavern, Colonial Willamsburg, VA, at Revolutionary City dramatic performance, April 2006.)

Hustle and Flow: It's Hard out Here

It’s hard out here for a, well what. With all the advances towards gay equality and all of the utterances of constitutional principles when talking about gay marriage and the military “don’t ask don’t tell” one still comes down to making specific decisions about one’s own life. In retirement, at age 63, I do look at the practicalities differently, even today, even if I came of age during that horrible, McCarthy Cold War era.

Typically, gay men (and to a lesser extent lesbians) have succeeded in life by putting points on the board early in life (like in the first quarter), using their own individual talents and content-deployment skills. This gets way beyond the 50s hairdresser stereotype or even the genteel fun of The Fab 5. It has to do with specific talents in areas like art, music, drama (whether acting or writing), film, or often enough in the sciences (particularly medicine), sometimes law.

There are a lot of areas of life that are relationship dependent rather than content dependent. True, there are borderline areas (like teaching). But many areas of business commerce reflect old fashioned patriarchal competitiveness, with the most extreme example being the professional warrior class – the military. Typically, a man believes his progeny to be his ultimate self-extension, because it is a biological, usually genetic extension and for many men that is the one opportunity they have, regardless of social circumstances. Therefore, the conventional man (The Organization Man, The Man in a Gray Flannel Suit, etc.) will prove that he can compete in selling other people’s wares to prove that his family prevails over other families. That is the way it is for so many people. This all does get mixed up with religion.

People naturally tend to expect that you make your mark on the world in some conventionally competitive endeavor, that would relate back to providing for a family, or at least providing for others. That is getting more critical again as eldercare becomes growing demographic problem, threatening to grow quickly into an economic crisis.

I had a lot of trouble with this. So I speak out, give my tome, without it being clear what my standing or stake in the world is. I refuse to “compete” in a partisan manner. Yet, male homosexuality, at least, ultimate reflects another personal value, that one knows, in his own aesthetics, who is beautiful and who would make the most “competitive” ancestor. It’s a thought with disturbing implications. It sounds like the old “knowledge of good and evil” problem, even the Original Sin. Or think about it this way: Vatican moral teachings on sexuality (especially abstinence) seem designed to blunt the idea that sex involves competition, so that everybody gets saved, everybody participates somehow (even in heterosexual family or as a properly celibate and spiritually challenged priest). Homosexual values seem to stress competition again with the mechanism of upward affiliation. That sounds sinful. But get real. Marriage and family are inherently competitive in any society that values individuality and freedom. Just watch “Days of our Lives”.

So it’s hard out here for, well, a gay retiree. Hustle and Flow, all right. Of course, modern culture does offer many people individually opportunities to mentor others and become socialized without marriage, that I missed out on. But I do understand how marriage and family do drive the way most people succeed. There is no getting around that.

(See the entry on Nov 11 on this blog for the latest news on the Jan. 2 Massachusetts vote on gay marriage.)

Related essay "Narcissism, Affiliation, and Polarity", 1998, at this link.