As of midnight last night, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a dead letter. Gay and lesbian Americans in the Armed Forces can now serve honestly and openly, without fear of reprimand, reprisal or discharge.
This is a great day in American history. It will be remembered along side Harry S. Truman’s order, 60 years ago this July, to desegregate the military.
But one American who is unlikely to be celebrating today is a Republican who seeks to lead the U.S. military as its commander in chief: Texas Governor Rick Perry.
In 2008, even as candidate Barack Obama was committing to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Perry was writing a book in which he suggested that the military’s tortured stance on homosexuality ought to be a model for American society.
The book, On My Honor, is a (tedious) history of the Boy Scouts and the legal challenges the organization has faced — in particular from “the radical homosexual movement” that Perry rails against for trying to “throw their sexual activity into the face of society.”
Perry insists that the sensibilities of bigots who are offended by homosexuality should trump the rights of gay people to live openly in society. “I respect their right to engage in the individual behavior of their choosing,” Perry writes of gay people, “but they must respect the rights of millions of Americans who refuse to normalize their behavior.”
In Perry’s mind, gay Americans should kowtow to the “decision by millions of families not to teach the gay lifestyle as an acceptable alternative” by living in the closet.
“Tolerance,” the governor writes, “is a two-way street.”