There’s Nothing Just or Fair About “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Imagine the following dialogue: “Dad, I want to serve my country just like you and your father did before me.”

“That’s wonderful, son. Only you will have to hide your sexual orientation in order to do so, but that’s OK. If you end up dying while serving, since you will now be out of the military, we will let everyone know who you really were.”

This is essentially the stance of the U.S. government with its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

If you believe, like I do, and as current science tells us, that one’s sexual orientation, like one’s gender, race and eye color, is a genetically determined part of who we are, then you will find this policy outrageous in a civilized enlightened society.

John Rawls, the great 20th century philosopher, has argued that justice is fairness. Justice is giving each his or her due. Can we rationally say it is just and fair to have people serve their country, perhaps die in the process, not be able to be proud of who they are and be forced to hide their identities?

Surely, any argument that uses personal disapproval to legitimize unequal treatment cannot stand, and such bigotry should not be enforced by a government whose founding documents state that “all men are created equal,” and all people have the right to “the pursuit of happiness.”

An analogy might be as follows: “You can serve in the military if you are black, as long as you are fair skinned and no one knows you are black.”

Would we tolerate this?

Arguably, today’s most explicitly targeted groups are Muslims and homosexuals. We already have learned that the belief that white-skinned people are superior to black-skinned people, or a dislike for someone’s color, are not legitimate reasons to legally discriminate. Some of you will remember when blacks were considered “dirty” by whites, deprived of opportunities and presumed guilty in court cases when charges were brought up by a white person.

Bigots ignore rational arguments and rely on their disapproval and dislike to justify ignoring the Constitution and the principle of law.

It is time for citizens to stop and think when the flag of “national security” is waved about whether the suggested course of action is consonant with our American constitutional values. It is time to stop being mean-spirited and abusive to any group of people.

It is time to get rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”