Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"The Right to Serve" v. "The Right to Marry"

Last night was the film screening of ASK NOT in West Hollywood.  After the film, there was a panel discussion that followed (I was a guest on the panel).  First, the film was absolutely amazing!!  It really shed light on the issues attached to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the ways that the policy affects real people.  The questions we got asked on the panel were some very great questions; they were actually rather challenging questions, but that's good though, because this is a challenging issue.

There was one question that was asked that stuck with me the rest of the night and it's still in my head.  The question was something like, "Given that the LGBTQ community is more liberal, they tend to be anti-war and thus, anti-military, do you think that LGBTQ persons don't care as much about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" as they should?  Additionally, given the recent rulings of Prop 8, do you think that the movement for the right to marry has overshadowed the movement for the right to serve?"  (This was not the exact wording, but the gist of what was asked).

This was such a great question!!  I can't even count the number of times I have heard gay and lesbian people say, "At least I'll never be drafted, because I'm gay!"  Responses like that make me upset, because they are accepting policies that discriminate against them.  I wanted to share my response to this question through my blog, because I believe it's important for us as a community of LGBTQ people and allies to understand this.

A person's personal feelings about war, militaries, etc., are irrelevant when it comes to legality of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  The larger issue here is discrimination.  While, the issue of marriage seems to be more of a current event, I don't think it has entirely overshadowed the right to serve movement; because at the heart of both issues is the need to end discrimination.  Regardless of how someone feels about certain topics, everyone should have access to marriage and the opportunity to serve in the armed forces (if they so choose) without being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.  Plain and simple.

For more information about research being done on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," please check out the website for the Palm Center at the University of California Santa Barbara (http://www.palmcenter.org)