Our view: One small step for equality

DKS Editors

In case you missed it, the United States took a small step in its ever-going march toward equality last week.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Committee last Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they favor repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law that bars openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military.

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen told the committee.

Gates’ and Mullen’s testimony came six days after President Barack Obama said he would work with Congress and military officials to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in his State of the Union address.

The willingness of America’s top leaders to repeal this law is great news for this country because “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a major black mark on our military. The law prevents equality in America’s armed forces.

Gay men and women can serve — they just have to lie about who they are to do so. Once they come out, they’re thrown out. That’s not equality. That’s about as far from equality as you can get.

So our leaders’ willingness to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” shows how far the country has come in terms of tolerance even since 1993, when the policy was implemented. Back then, many people thought openly gay members of the armed forces would hurt morale. We’ve certainly come a long way since then.

But don’t let the possible repeal of the policy fool you — we’re still a long way from full tolerance toward LGBT citizens of this country.

Sen. John McCain said he was “disappointed” in Gates’ and Mullen’s testimony, and other Republicans have backed his stance. Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat who helped shape the policy in the early ‘90s, said he opposes its repeal.

And that’s just our elected officials. It says nothing of the political commentators or the ordinary American citizens who oppose the possible repeal.

So while the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” signifies a step toward equality, right now it’s just a small step. The big one won’t come until the wide majority of citizens — no matter their age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or political party — supports the repeal.

That’s when we’ll finally see a tolerant, equal America.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the daily kent stater editorial board.