I intentionally point out that this was the only law in America specifically mandating someone be fired if you are gay (or identify as any part of the LGBT community). When we look at the civilian side of the argument in comparison, we’re talking about the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) – proactive measures enshrining employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in law. It’s important that DADT repeal be one of the major milestones in our long march towards full equality under the law.
A discriminatory policy, on the Federal level, specifically barring full participation in an activity by an entire class of people is unconstitutional at best. In fact, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld just that fact earlier this summer. It only took our court system 18 years to catch up with what our community already knew. In the meantime, it is estimated over 14,000 troops were dismissed under the policy from 1993 until present day.
The fall of DADT signals new hope. The last barrier expressly denying us protections for the most basic of rights (marriage aside for right now), has fallen. It’s part of a progression that started in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, the historic Supreme Court ruling which outlawed sodomy statutes. Those statutes were the predecessor which provided the platform on which DADT repeal became possible. After 2003, our ‘private activities’ were no longer criminalized. Now that didn’t get us equal treatment, but it did signal that we, as a community, have a right to privacy. Remember too, that in 1993 when DADT was enacted, nearly all U.S. States had sodomy statutes on the books.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued an Executive Order for integration of black and white troops in the armed forces. That action was at the start of an historic expansion of civil rights laws over the next 20 years. The civil rights laws enacted during the 1960’s continue to influence current policy and continue to evolve even still today. Most people know of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but fail to realize there were subsequent Civil Rights Acts in 1965, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1988, 1991 and even 2008. We still have a long way to go to achieve racial equality and justice, but the history of the LGBT community’s fight for inclusion borrows heavily from the history of the civil rights movement.
I propose that our timeline for advancement started in 1993 with the original passage of DADT. While we didn’t win the fight in 1993, it started a dialogue; it raised awareness; and it galvanized a movement. As we approach our 20 year marker, we are seeing a combination of the same issues which lead to social change in the 1960’s – a mixture of civil disobedience; repeal of outdated laws; introduction of pro-active laws; and movement in the judicial system. We saw all of those strategies at play in the repeal of DADT, and those strategies are already adapted around other pro-active legislation like ENDA and Marriage equality.
This past week was a great reason to celebrate, but now it is back to work on the rest of our agenda – making sure LGBT individuals, couples and families are accepted and appreciated in today’s society, both legally and socially.
A.J. Bockelman is Executive Director for PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy group. This bi-monthly column will explore the LGBT political world and he hopes that you will join him in that exploration. If you would like to provide feedback or get further information, feel free to contact him at AJBockelman@PROMOonline.org.
BY: A.J. BOCKELMAN