Future generations will study the progress of gay rights in America as part of the ongoing story of expanding liberty and equality for diverse groups. It will make sense to our grandchildren that there was a long period (dating to the Revolutionary War) when gays (and later, lesbians) could not serve in the U.S. military. And it will make sense to them that in 2011 (based on last weekend’s vote) gays and lesbians gained the equal right to serve. This will make sense to them just as they will learn that there was a time when African-Americans had no rights at all, or that there was a time when women couldn’t vote.
But they will have trouble making sense of the strange period from 1993 to last weekend when the policy was that:
The U.S. military was still required to expel gays or lesbians, but only if they found out about the sexual orientation of the soldiers, sailors and marines, and, as a matter of official policy, they would not try to find out.
Gays could enlist without having to lie about their sexual orientation, and they could serve and practice homosexuality, as long as they didn’t call attention to their homosexuality.
This policy of virtually open hypocrisy based on intentional ignorance lasted 18 years and was known under the confusing, absurd shorthand name of “Don’t ask; Don’t tell.”
Rest In Peace.