The military’s seventeen-year-old ban on openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from joining the US military is back on the books. But based on a new directive, only five senior military officials will be able to discharge service members for violating the policy. The change makes it harder for the military to remove openly gay troops. We speak to one of the most vocal critics of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Lt. Dan Choi, who this week filed papers to re-enlist after being discharged earlier this year. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: The military’s seventeen-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay, lebsian, bisexual and transgender people from joining the US military, is back on the books. But based on a new directive from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, only five senior military officials will be able to discharge service members for violating the policy. The change makes it harder for the military to remove openly gay troops.
Defense Secretary Gates issued the memorandum Thursday authorizing only five senior officials to forcibly remove openly queer service members from the military. The decision had previously been in the hands of several more less-senior military and civilian officials.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll host a debate on whether the queer rights movement should be focused on repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, but first we go to Lt. Dan Choi for the latest news. He is one of the most vocal critics of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Earlier this week he filed papers to re-enlist in the military after being discharged earlier this year.
Dan Choi, it’s nice to see you with this. I just saw you the day after you got your papers, your discharge papers.
LT. DAN CHOI: That’s right. We were at Netroots Nation.
AMY GOODMAN: In Las Vegas.
LT. DAN CHOI: And we also met Harry Reid. We told him that he needs to do what he can to get rid of this policy and law.
It’s been a long year. It’s been quite a roller coaster. And it is difficult to go on back to your chosen profession, your team, when your country discriminates against you openly and says that you cannot tell the truth about who you are, and you realize all the pain. This past year, I think, I spent a lot of it realizing and acknowledging some of the pain of having to stay in the closet, even in war. Even in times where you’re serving your country in the most harrowing circumstances, you’re not allowed to have the full measure of integrity. And I don’t think most people ever realize how painful that is, until they’re finally able to stop and realize what went on in their lives. And dealing with some of those issues has not been easy. Hasn’t been easy telling my parents that I’m gay. My dad’s a Southern Baptist minister, and my parents immigrated from Korea. My mom was an orphan in the Korean War. It’s not easy communicating on all different kinds of topics with them, but this one in particular hasn’t been easy.
But still, when we found last week that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was struck down by the courts — and as far as I know about American government, that’s the judicial branch — that’s the judiciary branch’s constitutional mandate. If there is an unconstitutional law, they strike it down. And for seven days, an entire week, there was no Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It was dead. There were no enormous consequences, like Secretary Gates mentioned. Nobody quit. Nobody protested. No homophobic harassments of gay soldiers happened, as all the fear mongering that happens in many parts of the country, in many political circles, surrounding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, were just, on their face, invalidated.
And now that President Obama has asked for a stay on that ruling and the injunction, it was very saddening. It was hurtful to me and to people who were in the military that came out or wanted to have that full measure of integrity. It wasn’t easy to join back up, go to that recruiting station. But when I realized that the real victims of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are not the gay soldiers that get kicked out, it’s really all of America that’s the victim of this policy, and when we signal to the rest of the world that our country, even though we say equal justice under the law, we’re the land of the free and the home of the brave, that doesn’t necessarily apply to some of our citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: So President Obama now, while he says he’s against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s his government, it’s his Justice Department, that has appealed this decision.
LT. DAN CHOI: That’s right. And they don’t need to. They fulfilled their mandate, the Department of Justice. All they needed to do was put on a court and trial. Many people, legal scholars, have shaken their heads, scratched their heads, wondering what this president is doing. His rhetoric indicates that he wants Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed. He hasn’t said that it’s unconstitutional. Well, the courts have done that, and that’s their job. President Obama, as a legal scholar, as a constitutional law professor, he should know better. The President has no obligation to defend, with such a full-throated effort, the discriminatory and unconstitutional policies. The courts have done the heavy lifting for him, and his policies, his desires to get rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, have essentially been done.