Don’t ask, do tell

In 1969, the Canadian government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau officially passed an amendment to the Canadian Criminal Code decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada.

Since then, Canada has seen enormous progress on the civil rights of gays and lesbians, starting in the early nineties with the federal court lifting the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military. The nineties also saw Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s government add “sexual orientation” to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan.

In 2005, the Liberal government passed Bill C-38 allowing gay couples to marry; Canada became the fourth country in the world to do so (after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain). Surprisingly, that same year we saw two men, a Canadian Forces sergeant and a warrant officer get married in the chapel at CFB Greenwood, which was the military’s first gay wedding.

While there is still miles to go in accepting gays into all aspects of Canadian society (especially in Alberta), I take pride in the fact that any Canadian citizen regardless of language, race, gender and sexual orientation can serve in our military and put themselves in harms way for the benefit of Canadians and the rest of the world.

Needless to say, I cringe when I look south of the border and see the same injustice that we thought to rid ourselves of nearly twenty years ago.

In the eighties, President Reagan deemed that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” Anyone who came out was automatically discharged. Bill Clinton promised to change that during his first election campaign. After he was elected, Clinton failed on his promise to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military though through no fault of his own.

Congress overrode his wording of the bill which forced him to issue a defense directive which directed military applicants not to be asked about their sexual orientation. This is the policy we know as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

A gay person can serve in the military as long as they don’t admit to being who they are, forced to stay in the closet under enemy fire (Don’t Tell). I imagine it must be harder to form that all important bond between comrades when the guy next to you in the fox hole doesn’t really know who you are.

It is supposedly illegal for the military to look into the background of soldiers for the purpose of finding evidence of homosexuality (Don’t Ask); given this fact, I find it hard to believe that thirteen thousand service men and woman have been discharged since 1994. Then again, I wonder how many people state that they are gay just to get out of service.

For a country engaged in two wars and a global war on terrorism with a military that routinely fails to meet recruiting goals, it’s rather unintelligent, not to mention discriminatory that a gay or bisexual soldier can’t serve their country. I suppose it’s that age old ignorance, fearing what one doesn’t understand that helped the Republicans filibuster Barack Obama’s latest attempt to overturn the unjust policy last week.

It’s generally not the stereotypical fruity, flamboyant or feminine gay male who signs up for military service; they tend to stay away from guns and violence. Nor is it the stereotypical lip-stick lesbian who goes off to war. Fact is, most lesbians I know could kick my ass to hell and back and have it for breakfast (not that they’d want it).

The brave men and women who join the service in Canada and the United States are there for just one reason and one reason only; to serve and fight for their country. They wouldn’t graduate basic training if they weren’t ready. Believing that gays “create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline and unit cohesion” is utter nonsense.

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