When I first heard the crushing news Monday night that our leaders had settled on a compromise that guts repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" of any force, I thought of Steve Ralls, the former communications director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. As a former news editor of The Advocate, I'd worked with Steve on many stories (including one that featured the first on-the-record comments from an active-duty gay servicemember). I figured he'd be similarly upset about the disappointing turn of events—and he is.
Steve worked at SLDN from 1999-2008. At a moment when so many seem to be forgetting the history of "don't ask, don't tell" or overlooking crucial details of the compromise, he's not. In his own words:
"I worry that something similar to 1993 is about to happen all over again, and too few people are paying attention to the details of this plan. In my view, it is problematic on several levels.
"Unfortunately, we are not getting a solution that will put the issue to rest. Instead, we're getting one half of an ideal solution, which will leave the debate continuing on for, I fear, a long time to come. And, the worst part of it all, is that service members will continue to be stuck in the middle.
"This 'compromise' is far less than what our men and women in uniform deserve. I honestly (and literally) got a knot in my stomach when I read the proposed amendment. Repeal is drastically undermined without a second, critical piece: A policy of non-discrimination mandated by Congress, signed by the President and enforced by the Pentagon. That second action must be the centerpiece of any acceptable proposal, and I believe it could have been accomplished while still satisfying the desire of the Pentagon to wait for its working group report before implementation begins.
"The plan we now have, instead, simply returns authority to the Department of Defense, without specific instructions for open service. That's where we were pre-'93, and it's far behind what we owe the LGBT troops who have already been held to a separate standard than their straight colleagues for far too long. They have more than earned an actual policy that welcomes their service and explicitly prohibits any discrimination against them. I worry when we propose settling for anything less."
Thanks for sharing, Steve. You're the best.