Earlier today, the Senate finally managed to get its act together and repealed the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. About time too, it’s not like the policy was in effect for 18 years, after all. Seriously, though, it seems like the Senate’s true colors were laid bare for the entire world during the run-up to today’s votes; we heard various Senators giving the most ridiculous reasons to oppose it, but more on that in a minute.
Not only was public opinion shifting in favor since the Pentagon study came out, but the debate gave us the interesting interaction between Lady Gaga and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Of course, it goes back even farther to when President Obama was still only a candidate for the office, but the repeal has only really been worked on in earnest since the beginning of this year. As great as the repeal is for promoting equality in this country, another bill was effectively killed today, and this one would have been just as big, maybe even more than the repeal of DADT.
The Senate of Broken DREAMs
See, the Senate voted today to kill the DREAM Act, arguably the last great hope for immigration reform, by a vote of 55 to 41. Yep, it was the latest victim of the filibuster craze that has plagued the Senate throughout the past two years. This legislation would have given children who had immigrated illegally a shot at citizenship after either two years of college or military service; it could have been the first real path to citizenship for the nation’s approximately 11 million illegal immigrants, and the least controversial by far.
Of course, we’ve all heard the arguments against it about a thousand times now; the whole “OMG IT’S AMNESTY!!!1!!” chorus from the Right. But really, in the same year that gave us Arizona’s now-infamous SB 1070, the law that encourages police to do immigration checks with every arrest if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is here illegally, and the same month that we’ve heard an emboldened GOP announce similar initiatives in other states (I think Texas alone has about seven immigration proposals now), how much could we expect for a bill that runs counter to these sentiments?
Sadly, any meaningful immigration reform is on hold until at least after the 2012 election; incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner (R- Ohio) is unlikely to bring up anything along the lines of the DREAM Act, and the Senate is, well, the Senate. The sad thing is, it was within reach today; five Democrats broke with the party and voted against cloture. Now, I am always in favor of disregarding the party and voting on principles, but let’s face it, if the scenario had been flipped, the result would’ve been different. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) is much better at controlling his caucus than Reid is; if it had been flipped, cloture would have been voted for, and whatever legislation it had been would have passed. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a different animal altogether, but certain Senators’ reactions to the idea of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military are quite astounding.
The Man Who Was Almost President
What was shocking throughout the last couple weeks of debate on repealing DADT was, most prominently, Senator John McCain’s (R- Arizona) reaction. Heck, I can’t believe we were close to having this guy as our President; someone as publicly intolerant as Senator McCain would be an embarrassment in the Oval Office. Intolerance is contrary to the way the rest of the world is moving; heck, at the time we enacted DADT, Canada allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly. In fact, country after country around the world repealed their version of DADT or had it challenged in court, etc., over the last decade, making the United States one of the last developed nations to do so. To put it in perspective, it put us in the same company of North Korea, Cuba, and Iran
And here we are, with an expert on the military in the Republican Party calling today “a very sad day”, and saying we’re doing great harm to our military in a time of war. Seriously, Senator? The only high-level individuals using that kind of language are the aforementioned Senator, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Equally shameful as this kind of intolerant language is threatening to tie the repeal to the START treaty. Fortunately, McCain is not explicitly tying the two together, but certain other Senators are, including Sen. Bob Corker (R- Tennessee), and others.
Newsflash: letting people who have a different sexual orientation than your bigoted self won’t threaten our national security. Letting Russia build nuclear weapons without any monitoring? Well, then again, that threat isn’t anywhere near what it was 25 years ago, but all the same it’s only a little stupid to link something that might have grave consequences for national- and global -security with something that won’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet; it’s not been completely repealed yet.
There’s a provision in the bill that requires the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the President, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to certify that it won’t impact readiness and combat effectiveness, followed by a 60-day cooling period before it is gone. It is much better by far to give the military the time it needs to adjust to the policy change before forcing it on them. After all, that is the main reason that the military leadership got behind this proposal so quickly; a court might’ve overturned it completely without warning and without a time to prepare for it.
The military needs to do it quickly, yes, but it must also do the repeal right. Anything less than that, and there may be unforeseen consequences regarding harassment, discrimination, and so on. An organization as large as the United States military cannot turn on a dime. Thanks to their logistical ability, they can come damned close, but with a policy change like this, it has to be done once, and those changes have to come down from the top and reach every single unit. That said, it’s only a matter of time now.
The Equality Wins While A Dream Dies by The New Age of Politics, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.