DADT Repeal—Not “a Sad Day”

While generals, admirals, sailors and privates — and the American people — have honestly and openly expressed their opinions on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) and their reasoning behind them, it became painfully and embarrassingly obvious that one powerful Republican, for whatever reason, would only listen to one unchangeable, immoveable and prejudicial opinion: his own.

Back in October 2006, that Republican Senator, John McCain, in a speech to Iowa State University students, said:

The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, “Senator, we ought to change the policy,” then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.

When the leadership of the military—the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—came to McCain earlier this year to tell him that Congress ought to change the policy, McCain chastised both men and ignored—some say ridiculed—the Admiral’s eloquent, heartfelt and powerful words, wanting to hear from the generals and the sergeants and to await the results of a study being conducted by the military.

When the study was completed a few weeks ago, concluding that allowing gays to openly serve in our military presents a low risk to the military’s effectiveness—even during a time of war—and that 70 percent of service members believe that the impact of repealing DADT would be either positive, mixed or of no consequence at all, McCain rejected the report because, among other, McCain didn’t like the questions the survey asked—more likely because he didn’t like the answers.

Today, while eight Republicans broke ranks and voted their conscience and their principles to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in our armed forces, one Republican stuck to his misconceptions, prejudices and to his just plain, old stubbornness by swimming—floundering—against the tide of American opinion, progress and history, as he has done before—such as in 1983, when he voted against the creation of a federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Several years later McCain admitted to his error.)

McCain’s no-vote was expected.

What was not expected was that the Senator would go to the Senate floor before the DADT cloture vote and evoke images of “Marines with no legs…none,” and “Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs” in a last-minute, desperate attempt to maintain the old, discriminatory status quo.

Those remarks troubled me.

Isn’t the Senator aware that it is possible that some of those heroes that have gone through Walter Reed to get new arms and new legs fitted, or are still there receiving treatment for a limb that has been blown-off in Iraq or Afghanistan, are gay or lesbian?

Hasn’t he heard of Marine Sgt. Eric Alva who stepped on a landmine the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom and lost his right leg, broke his left leg and permanently damaged his right arm? I am pretty sure Alva spent some time at Walter Reed or some other military medical facility getting much-needed treatment for his war injuries. Alva happens to be gay.

Leading the opposition to the repeal of Don’t ask, Don’t tell, Senator McCain said of the proceedings in the U.S. Senate, “Today is a very sad day.”

No, Senator, today was not a sad day at all. Your position on this issue and your remarks certainly are.

UPDATE: Also read this related TMV post about what went on during the vote with McCain and how some of his colleagues reacted to him.

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist