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End of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ a milestone

We of the South Carolina Black Pride just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the great victory of the discriminatory “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which forbade persons who are lesbian or gay from serving openly in the U.S. military, being no more. By an overwhelming vote of 65 to 31, the U.S. Senate passed a House version of the repeal bill last year; President Obama signed the law; and military officials have certified the change that took place Sept. 20. This is a particularly poignant moment for us in South Carolina because of the high number of military personnel who serve in our state.

We salute our many sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay and proudly serving or have served their country, for this moment is a milestone in the great cause of freedom and equality for everyone. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This great injustice of military leadership expending invaluable time, energy and tax dollars to investigate and dishonorably discharge some 14,000 service personnel — who were honorably serving their country — simply because of who they love is a threat to honesty, decency and justice.

We are exceedingly thankful that this first step has been taken to right the wrong of government-sanctioned discrimination against us LGBT citizens because of outdated prejudices. We say to those critics who fear this simply is the first step to social chaos that President Truman’s order to racially integrate the U.S. military in the late 1940s did not lead to chaos, but was alongside the great civil rights movement that eventually ushered in a new era of equality and opportunity for African-Americans and a host of others denied the fruits of citizenship due to racial and ethnic discrimination.

The integration of women into the U.S. military and especially into combat rolls in the 1990s did not affect unit cohesion at all and actually has demonstrated that courage and skill are not the copyright of any one gender. And this move to permit gay and lesbian soldiers to openly serve without fear of reprisal will simply meet that high standard of the military, as stated by Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that no service member should be compelled to lie.

So we congratulate the many LGBT civil rights organizations and leaders who represented our community and patiently but persistently pressed for this change over the course of 17 years. We thank those members of the U.S. House and Senate and President Obama for having the foresight to insist on this repeal.

Todd C. Shaw
South Carolina Black Pride

© 2011 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Publication: The State; Date: October 5, 2011; Section: Editorial-Letters; Page: A8