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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh, sure! NOW they want us!

Being the "news junky" that I am - not to mention maintaing a page of links to news stories on my Democratic club's website - I subscribe to more than my share of Internet mailing lists for news of interest to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

I get everything from articles in the mainstream press to links to gay publications all over the country to copies of e-mails sent out to conservation and religious right organizations like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women of America, the Eagle Forum and the like.

This morning I found in my e-mail an article that disturbed me greatly. No, it wasn't the latest homophobic rant from Jerry Falwell about a suspiciously "gay" cartoon character. Neither was it from James Dobson promoting his "Love Won Out" snake-oil "cures" for homosexuality. And it wasn't from Phyllis Schafly's Eagle Forum denouncing homosexuality as an abomination (while carefully avoiding the mention that Schafly's own son is "that way").

Instead, this e-mail came from the GLBT News service and contained a report on a survey by the Boston Globe on the issue of gays in the military. Seems like we fought that battle once before when Bill Clinton first came to office with the promise that he would sign an executive order lifting the military's ban on gay servicemen and women. Of course that was followed by Congressional hearings highlighted by near-panic on the part of some Republicans and military brass about having to ... oh, the HORROR! ... share a shower with those lustful homosexuals who might think dirty thoughts at the mere sight of a naked and presumably straight (though from experience I can say you just never know) fellow soldier. Then the hearings were followed by the infamous "don't ask, don't tell" policy which was a compromise no one was happy with.

That was the way it was in 1993. Granted, the move for gay rights has progressed since then. We've seen same-sex sodomy laws overturned by the Supreme Court and watched as Vermont established civil unions for same-sex couples and Massachusetts clear the way for gay marriage. All those were accomplished without the anticipated smiting predicted by the religuous right. (Well, to be honest, Florida did get hit by a few hurricanes, but God was unavailable for comment on whether that was due to Gay Day at DisneyWorld or the behavior of Republicans during the 2000 election.)

Just as it looks like progress is being made on gay rights issues, the backlash begins. TV preachers of the fun-D'uh-Mental-ist variety knew a cash cow when they saw one and went on the offensive railing about same-sex marriage and "activist" judges who were hell-bent on destroying families by daring to suggest that homosexuals had the same rights as decent, God-fearing heterosexuals. Suddenly state ballots were flush with amendments designed to keep marriage as the exclusive province of heteros. At last count some 13 states had passed such measures (and more likely to come).

The backlash is here ... so it's suprising to find the following poll results in my e-mail:



WASHINGTON, DC - A poll published in Sunday's Boston Globe reports that 79% of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. "Large majorities of Republicans, regular chuchgoers, and (even) people with negative attitudes toward gays think gays and lesbian should be allowed to serve openly in the military," the Globe reports.

Don Mihovk, who works for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and agreed to be interviewed after responding to the poll, told the Globe that, "(Gays) can serve their country, they can work in any job they want."

The Globe poll follows other recent polls showing growing support for allowing gays to serve openly. Recent Gallup polls have reported between 65% and 79% support for lifting the military's gay ban. The Annenberg Survey reported in October that half of junior enlisted personnel and their families support allowing gays to serve. And in 2003, FOX News reported 64% support for allowing gays to serve.

"Across every political spectrum, and by ever-increasing majorities, Americans favor allowing gays to serve our country," said C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "National security is neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue. Americans do not support a policy that places discrimination above military readiness. Our homeland is made more secure, in both the blue states and the red, when qualified, capable Americans are allowed to serve without regard to sexual orientation. Members of Congress from both sides of the
aisle should heed the counsel of the American people and repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' once and for all."

In March, Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a Congressional bill to lift the military's gay ban. Today, the bill is supported by a bi-partisan group of 83 lawmakers in the House of Representatives. "We've tried the policy. I don't think it works. And we've spent a lot of money enforcing it," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. "People who've signed up to serve our country, we should be thanking them."

The Boston Globe poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which polled 760 randomly selected adults between May 4 and May 9. The margin of error is 3.6%.

I'm not, nor ever have been, a fan of the military. For those of us who came of age as the Viet Nam war sputtered and bogged down like an aging Chevy that continued to demand the blood of young Americans for fuel even as it went nowhere, the idea of a military is at best a troublesome necessity. But don't get me wrong. I signed every petition shoved under my nose at the 1993 March on Washington - and continue to get donation solicitations from the Service Member Defense Fund to prove it. Just because the military is not an option for me, I still supported the right of other gays and lesbians to enlist.

But that was then.

That was before we went off to fight a war in yet another distant land for dubious purposes and with no end in sight. Back then the U.S. had the draft to keep feeding that aging Chevy. Now, after losing more than 1,600 American lives in Iraq fighting a dictator who posed no threat to us and looking for weapons of mass destruction that no longer existed outside of the minds of intelligence analysts seeking to please the White House, there is no draft. Soldiers who would otherwise be home after a tour of duty are finding themselves re-deployed to the dusty streets of Baghdad and Falujah. Recruiters are falling short in their quotas of young men and women willing to sign up for the military.

Suddenly the idea of sharing a shower with a soldier who might at any time burst into show tunes or have an urge to redecorate the tent in a Southwestern motif with plenty of mauve accents to provide a contrast with all that sand doesn't sound so bad.

Let's call this what it is: the "Who cares if the homos are canon fodder?" movement.

Somewhere in the Pentagon the brass sat around a table and decided that if the BushCo Administration (a subsidiary of Haliburton, Inc.) wasn't going to let them reinstate the draft, them by golly, at least let 'em send the homos over there to fight all them A-rabs.

Somewhere in the deep South all those TV preachers with the bad hair and the wives that weep on demand when it's time to pass the collection plate were sittin' 'round the table and decided, well, hey-ell Brother Billie Bob ... as long as they ain't getting married and destroyin' the very fabric of this here Christian society, who care if we pack 'em up and send them over to Eye-raq to fight all 'em Moslems since the fudge-packers and those godless Moslems are all goin' straight to H-E-double hockey sticks anyway.

Then, lo and behold, while same-sex marriage, gay adoptions and foster parenting and other parts of the alleged homosexual agenda continue to be rallying cries in the cultural wars, gays in the military is apparently not making a ripple in the collective zeitgeist these days. Why? It's simple. Very few people die as a result of getting married, adopting a child, or taking part in any of the other civil rights so often taken for granted.

Joining the military and serving in a war zone is hazardous to one's health.

In other words, gays and lesbians make great canon fodder. They just don't deserve full and equal rights with the rest of society.

Frankly, I think they have it backwards. Want me to fight? Then give me a country worth fighting for. One that protects the rights of all its citizens.

Until that time arrives, focus on taking the children or grandchildren of every member of Congress and the BushCo administration. (Yes, that includes Jenna and Barb, too!) Being born into privelege, they have plenty of more rights to fight for then I do.