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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dreams deferred

By Nan Hunter -

Even at its best, it seems, American politics mixes the bitter with the sweet.
Yesterday's vote setting up the final glide path for repeal of DADT was certainly sweet. It vindicated the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of gay Americans who have served the nation honorably only to be disserved, dishonorably by the nation. It will lead to the end of a policy that was never justified or justifiable, the monstrous product of a rookie President who botched his own efforts to do the right thing, a vicious conservative opposition, cowardly military leadership, and a horribly wrong man in a key place, Senator Sam Nunn. 
It took 17 years of hard work by an almost countless number of people to right the wrong of DADT. And of course the ban on military service by openly gay Americans long pre-dates DADT, as do the efforts to end the ban. The list of men and women who had the courage to insist on the dignity of honest service goes way back: Leonard Matlovich, Vernon Berg, Perry Watkins, Miriam Ben-Shalom. The litigation challenge brought by the ACLU on behalf of Matlovich was filed in 1975.
It is impossible to count how many lives were ruined by the various iterations of this policy. For so many of the young men and women who enlist, the military is a ticket out - of poverty or near poverty, of a future with nothing but dead end jobs, or just of a numbing daily existence. Military service offers a fresh start, maybe ultimately the chance to go to college. The old policies closed that door for gay kids or forced them to live in terror that they would be found out and forced out. It is sweet to see that era end.
But it is also deeply ironic that the vote to end it came in tandem with the failure to enact the DREAM Act. For thousands of young people, the DREAM Act would have offered a fresh start and the chance to serve in the military or get a better education without fear. Although the anti-immigrant phobia that led to its defeat is not specifically about gay people, it is profoundly a gay issue in all but name. It is anyone's guess how many gay and lesbian immigrant youth will continue to be hurt by current immigration policy - maybe as many as the number of gay Americans who enlist? More centrally, the DREAM Act is about ending a fundamental injustice that stratifies human beings based on an irrelevant characteristic.
Let's hope it doesn't take 17 years to rectify yesterday's bitterness.

for more visit Hunter for Justice.


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