Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Patriot Gays

by William Saletan

December 20, 2010

"Don't ask, don't tell" is history. The House and Senate votes to repeal it, backed by President Obama's promised signature, are a cultural milestone. But where is this revolution going? Are we abandoning moral judgments about sex, or just rethinking them?

To social conservatives, DADT's demise is a collapse of values. It's an abandonment of "character," an attempt at "reshaping social attitudes regarding human sexuality" that would "destroy the military's moral backbone." A focus group participant sums up their fear: "People view the military as the last bastion of morals and what is good. If we break that down here … What's left?" The initial worry of these groups, bolstered by the military's report on repealing DADT, is that straight, unmarried personnel will demand the same partner benefits accorded to gays.

Conservatives tend to exaggerate the slippery slope from homosexuality to anything-goes. But many of the arguments for repealing DADT, coupled with ongoing efforts to reform military sex laws, do point in that direction. During the Senate debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues repeatedly argued that the military shouldn't care "who you love." They called that question a matter of "personal liberty." Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, told her colleagues that after repealing DADT, "there is more work we have to do on this whole issue. There is still a lot of unfairness in our laws—partners not being able to have the same rights as married couples. That is another whole issue we will work on."