by Pat Baillie | The headlines fly by, saying that the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) injunction was just lifted by the Ninth Circuit judge. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel — Judges Alex Kozinski, Kim Wardlaw and Richard Paez — issued a ruling lifting the stay of Judge Virginia Phillips’ that stopped the worldwide enforcement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. That means that the Department of Defense is banned from discharging service member based on sexual orientation.
Since last October, when the injunction was issued, the Pentagon confirmed that four airmen (Air Force members) have been discharged since April of this year. It appears that all made voluntary statements of their sexual orientation and had asked to be “separated expeditiously.” It was hoped that outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who left office last month, would finalize the certification process that the military was ready to end DADT. He did not. The only comment from his successor former CIA Director Leon Panetta was that he would “work closely with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assess whether the elements for certification in the law are met before signing it myself.” The hope is that the certification will be complete in July or August.
So, what does this mean to those active duty military? Those that are out there serving are still living day-to-day with the concern of being kicked out because DADT still is on the books. The injunction helps them as they fight their discharge. For those service members who want to get out, such as the four mentioned above, the window is closed for them now. Having lived in the closet for so long when I was in the military, I find it interesting that the four airmen waited until right before the repeal to come forward to say that they wanted to get out. I wonder if we are seeing some underlying climate issues that are making lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members nervous, or that are focusing more attention on those suspected to be gay.
I don’t remember a time when I feared for my life or safety if anyone found out I was a lesbian, but I did fear for my job and the possibility of losing credibility with my troops. Those that are staying and fighting are navigating those issues and showing there is a way through by showing up at their job every day and excelling. It is much like when women entered combat coded jobs. I know I felt like I had to be all that much better as the only woman in my unit because my performance could be used as the basis to judge how well the rest of women in the military would do in these fields. LGB service members are feeling the same today I am sure!
For the majority of service members who are LGB, they are going to work every day, hoping the ban will end so they can be safe in their jobs, doing the job they love. I hope that comes soon and we can move on to a more open discussion of how the workplace of the military needs to change to include all service members. We won’t be done when DADT falls; we still need to find a way for transgender service members to serve, to be sure no one gets left behind!