July 24, 2008
Sorry we asked, sorrier she told
Posted by: Chris
Little news was expected from Congressional hearings today on legislation to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military. Much like the last hearings held on the subject, way back in 1993, the witness list was pretty much lop-sided.
Last time around, even though Democrats were in control, then-Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worked in bipartisan fashion with bigoted Republicans like Strom Thurmond of South Carolina to put up three or four witnesses opposing President Bill Clinton's campaign promise to repeal the ban on gays in the military for every one who supported it.
Those gay veterans with the temerity to show up for the hearing were subjected to questioning that was offensive then -- and seems downright loonie now. Thurmond, in particular, would ask in his Southern drawl, "Did you ever seek psiiiichological hep fo' yo' problem?"
Donnelly treated the panel to an extraordinary exhibition of rage. She warned of "transgenders in the military." She warned that lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower. She spoke ominously of gays spreading "HIV positivity" through the ranks.
"We're talking about real consequences for real people," Donnelly proclaimed. Her written statement added warnings about "inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community," the prospects of "forcible sodomy" and "exotic forms of sexual expression," and the case of "a group of black lesbians who decided to gang-assault" a fellow soldier.
At the witness table with Donnelly, retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah, a lesbian, rolled her eyes in disbelief. Retired Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay man who was wounded in Iraq, looked as if he would explode.
If reaction from House members was any indication, Donnelly's outlandish arguments only served to undercut her cause:
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) labeled her statement "just bonkers" and "dumb," and he called her claims about an HIV menace "inappropriate." Said Snyder: "By this analysis . . . we ought to recruit only lesbians for the military, because they have the lowest incidence of HIV in the country."
That said, inane arguments from the right and public support at a remarkable 75 percent aren't enough to motivate Democrats into doing anything more than holding hearings on the repeal bill. Despite repeated promises to the contrary, the election year is already being blamed for the stalled legislation.
Considering Democrats couldn't manage to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act despite bipartisan majority support in both houses of Congress and overwhelming public support, it's no surprise that they won't touch the third rail of national defense for the sake of us queers.
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