The XX Factor

The Fuzzy Math of DADT Opponents

Just a day after the historic Senate vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Senate, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz) was on Fox News Sunday warning, spinnily, that the repeal ” could cost lives .” Something to do with unit cohesion. Who even knows? Kyl didn’t really explain. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans, the vast majority of the military, the vast majority of the leadership of the military, and most of the rest of the world believe that DADT is a monstrous mistake, Kyl remains certain that as a result of this long overdue piece legislation, people will die.

What Kyl seems prepared to ignore is that also as a result of this long overdue piece of legislation, people may live. If we’ve learned anything else from Dan Savage’s astonishing It Gets Better project , it’s that there are indeed life-and-death consequences to telling gay teenagers that they are second class, or shameful, or disgusting. And a military policy that legally enshrined such humiliation – a policy that allowed soldiers to die for their country so long as they lived in shame or silence – was nothing if not government-sanctioned intolerance. As Jason Linkins explains , one of the reasons President Clinton first sought to end discrimination against gays serving openly in the military was because of the violent abuse (and even murder) they suffered at the hands of other servicemen. The lives of young gay Americans who may now feel pride in living openly may not count in Kyl’s vague calculus of lives lost, but they should.

And what about the American lives that may be saved when the military reinstates the approximately 59 Arabic translators discharged from the military under DADT between 2004 and 2009?  I wonder if Sen. Kyl even acknowledges that if they and all their colleagues are allowed to resume their positions and contribute their skills to the defense of the country, American lives will in fact be saved.

When the military was finally desegregated in 1948 (inspiring one of the greatest West Wing moments ever ) it was met with many of the same nonsensical blather about morale and unit cohesion.  These were not constitutional arguments then either, by the way. Just bigotry in fancy dress. One’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation shouldn’t preclude one from serving one’s country. Sen. Kyl should have the good sense to see that lives may well be saved as a result of repealing DADT. And the great news for the rest of America is that every one of those lives will count.

Photo of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)  by Win McNamee/Getty Images.