The United States Military will begin training its five service branches on how to implement the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ by the end of the week.
The Pentagon released its timeline about the policy’s execution last week, which anticipates finalizing the repeal by fall. The policy was repealed by the senate on Dec. 18, revoking a 17-year-old ban that prohibited openly gay service members from serving in the United States’ armed forces.
Aaron Belkin, director of UCSB’s Palm Center — a political think-tank that studies sexual orientation and military relations — said everything should be settled by October or November 2011, because the law mandates policy enforcement within 60 days. Belkin also said he is highly optimistic about the future of gay service in the military.
“It’s been a long march toward equality,” he said. “[It’s been] 233 years since the first gay soldier was fired from the army.”
Jake Hunnicutt, a first-year biology major, said the repeal is new progress in the LGBTQ community’s long struggle for equal rights.
“For years homosexuals have been treated like underdogs, not being able to do things that other people can do, and now that it’s okay for us to be out in the military, it’s one step toward being given all the rights we deserve,” Hunnicutt said.
Still, the LGBTQ community has far more ground to cover, Hunnicutt said. DADT’s repeal doesn’t offer partners of homosexual service members the same health care or base housing benefits as heterosexual couples.
“Gay couples are doing the exact same things as straight ones are, so why should they get less of the benefits?” Hunnicutt said. “I feel like it’s the civil rights movement all over again.”
Marlene Moreno, a second-year English and art major, said the policy’s repeal represents a triumph, but she is disappointed Congress did not make the decision sooner.
“It is a victory for the community, but it is far too late,” Moreno said. “It uncovered the incredible homophobia the U.S. is entrenched in. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ showed that our homophobia as a nation is stronger than our patriotism. Its repeal showed that at least we, as a nation, have room for the growth of diversity and maybe even acceptance of that diversity.”
According to Hunnicutt, the DADT victory is progress in an enduring struggle for further equality.
“It was pretty sad when Prop 8 passed,” Hunnicutt said. “But it’s going to take years, maybe decades before people will start warming up to the idea of gay marriage. Even though the repealing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a small step in comparison to what we really want, at least it’s a start.”