False alarm: DADT repeal not so bad

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Condolences to all former husbands and former wives whose marriages have been ruined as the encroachment of gay rights erodes the institution of marriage. I know all of you would still be married today if it weren’t for the rise of civil unions and the fall of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” These ghastly trends toward tolerance certainly boost the divorce rate much higher than, say, adultery, alcoholism, spousal abuse, financial hardships, bowling leagues and poker parties.

Last week, I went searching for explanations of how the American way of life is being torn asunder by these trends. I was drawn to a story in The Washington Post on Monday that began: “Congressional Republicans — still seething from last year’s repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy — are hoping for a progress report Thursday from the military’s top service chiefs about training programs designed to inform the rank and file about ending the ban on gays (serving openly) in the military.”

Oh, goody! Let’s bring in the top brass before the House Armed Services Committee, have ’em tell us how much they miss DADT and then let’s correct that awful decision made by Democrats last December.

Uh, it turns out that particular GOP strategy backfired. Gen. James Amos, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corp, told the House panel: “I’m looking specifically for issues that might arise coming out of the training, and the reality is that we’ve not seen them. I’ve asked for feedback … the clear majority of it is very positive.”

This was particularly noteworthy because Amos last year had been one of the most vocal opponents of the repeal of DADT.

As for the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz told the panel: “I’m more comfortable than I was on the 22nd of December, but we still have a ways to go, and it requires the constant attention of all of us to bring this home.”

Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said: “I’m very comfortable. I was very comfortable in making the recommendation last December and it’s consistent with what I continue to see in the Navy today.”

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli said Army commanders “have indicated no issues so far” in the first two of three phases of training.

States are weighing in

Well, gosh, that hearing certainly didn’t go as well as the House’s new GOP majority had planned. Perhaps I might find some evidence among the various states that the gay-rights genie could be coaxed back into the bottle.

In our own Washington, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday signed a bill that extends to out-of-state same-sex marriages the same rights and protections given to registered domestic partnerships in this state.

On Thursday, the Delaware state Senate by a 13-6 vote (why does Delaware have 19 state senators?) passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. That measure now goes to the Delaware House.

Overall, it’s looking like this genie won’t be subdued. Earlier this year, a poll conducted for ABC News and The Washington Post showed that 53 percent of respondents support same-sex marriage. That’s up more than 20 points from 32 percent eight years ago. Back in 2004, gay marriage had majority support of people younger than 30, but now majority support is seen among people in their 30s and 40s.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships are two parts of a larger trend. Gay marriage has been legalized in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia.

As for the diminishing ranks of gay-rights opponents, you can still cling to a few planks of bigotry floating in the rising sea of equality. There’s always the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which protects at least two lingering injustices: Binational couples still face the fear of deportation of the noncitizen spouse because of DOMA, and same-sex couples in states that recognize such marriages still must file separately with the IRS.

Nevertheless, the inexorable march to a more civilized society continues. And some day, our descendants will shake their heads and wonder why it had to proceed at such a plodding pace.

John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.