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December 19, 2010

Yesterday the Senate joined the House in voting to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It will now go to the President’s desk to be signed. This law will be regulated to the dust heap of history. Gays will now be allowed to serve in the military openly. I rejoiced and toasted the repeal, but my mind turned to a different age, a different time and a different cause.

I turned 18 in the middle of the Vietnam War. It was a period of time when men were being drafted to serve in a war that many of us felt was unjust. It was a scary period of time. Boys were coming home dismembered or in a coffin, and for no good reason. Boys like me. Or if we were lucky, we just killed some of the “enemy” and then came home. The though of hunting and killing animals nauseates me, let alone hunting and killing people. The thought of that at 18, terrified me. It terrifies me now, but I had an out. I was homosexual. If I was drafted, my plan was to come out, loud and clear. My boyfriend at the time, was drafted and got out of service that way. He told the soldier at the draft board he was gay, the day he was being shipped to boot camp. It was his last resort. And he verified his homosexuality by offering the guy a blow job. You had to prove you were gay then. It was a different world.

My how the world twists and changes. Today, we’re involved in a war that many feel are unjust, but there’s no draft. People serve because they want to. Or maybe because they have no other job opportunities. But there is no sense of avoiding service like there was when I was military age. So now people are fighting to serve rather than to avoid service. We could say that’s generational, but I suspect it has a lot more to do with not having a military draft.

As I listen to my friends cheer the repeal of DADT, my feelings were ‘So what? How does this affect me?” I’m happy for those gay men and women in the military who are affected, but my emotions are mixed. I remember the agony of the Vietnam conflict, coffins and the emotions of that long ago time.

But this repeal does affect me. It affects all gay men and women. The military is an institution that is a pillar of our society. Both political parties worship the men and women who give service to our country. When our people (gays) are allowed into that institution openly, it sends a message out to EVERYONE that being gay IS acceptable, whether they personally like it or not.

And that’s good public relations for gays . It brings the gay agenda of equality into the living rooms of all Americans, not just the ones who are already on our side and convinced that equality under the law is the right thing to do. This brings the issue into the homes of people who vehemently oppose us. And make no mistake, they will be talking about us. But the tide of history is on our side, just as it is for women, blacks and other minorities. Freedom is for everyone. Marriage equality will follow this much sooner and all gays will all benefit from having achieved these milestones, whether you want to join the military or get married. Being gay will be more acceptable. Coming out of the closet will be much easier so that someday there the closet might be old fashioned concept.

We need to give credit where credit is due. We want to thank the 6 Republican Senators who bucked their party and voted with us. But we must remember, this victory occurred because Democrats controlled the House, Senate and Presidency. It would never have happened under a Republican controlled House, Senate or Presidency. It could not happen next year when Republicans take control of the House. It would not have happened three years ago under a Republican President, who would not have signed this bill. Sadly, one party supports our equal rights and one party views us as outcasts, second class citizens at best, unworthy of the equal treatment that was the founding principle of this country. You ask why I support the Democratic party. This is your answer. I support those who support me, support us.

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