In the Face of Impasse, President Obama Must Lead
I am angry, and I am confused.
Yesterday, Senate Republicans led a filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act, to which the DREAM Act and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were attached.
As an immigrant to this country and as a member of the clergy engaged in multicultural ministry, I am profoundly disappointed. The Senate’s cynical posturing on the DREAM Act has dashed the hopes of many promising young people. And in response to this setback, I am committed to working with you to redouble our efforts for a comprehensive, humane solution to our broken immigration system.
As a United States Air Force Veteran, I am left trying to fathom why, in 2010, the issue of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members is a conversation we are still having. However, even with this setback in the Senate, President Obama has the opportunity to lead on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Please join me in asking President Obama to issue an Executive Order ending military discharges from “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and in urging the Justice Department to not appeal the recent federal district court ruling that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional:
This law must breathe its last breath.
Queer people have been faithfully serving in the military since time immemorial, and the armed services have not fallen apart. Rather, it is those who serve in gagged silence who suffer.
I should know.
In 1996, I was a Senior Airman (SrA) deployed by the U.S. Air Force to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. During my time abroad, the Khobar Towers, housing foreign military personnel, were bombed. Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed, hundreds others wounded. I remember vividly how everyone around me was able to call their spouses and reassure them that everything was okay, and receive much-needed support. Not me.
I was anxious to reach my partner at the time, and also to have her connect with my mother on Tobago to let the rest of my family know I was okay. But I had to call her in secret, lest anyone find out I was in a same-sex relationship. At the time, amid tragic losses, it seemed a trivial price to pay. Looking back, I know how deeply it compounded my stress to worry for months about how I could, without risk to my career, be in touch with the one person who was the primary support in my life.
I left the military after 10 years, when I could no longer serve with integrity. The more out I was in the other spheres of my life, the more living a lie on the job was simply too high an emotional price to pay — especially for a war I just didn’t believe in. I left as a First Lieutenant, but had I felt I could stay, I surely would have offered my service as a military chaplain. I think the messages of Unitarian Universalism have a place in the military with our troops, and I believe pastoral support and compassion should be offered to people everywhere, and not just in congregations.
It is past due that individuals like me be allowed to serve our country freely, with honesty and integrity, and that our country be able to reap the benefits of all we have to offer.
Join me in asking that our president show leadership in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:
By using his power as Commander in Chief, President Obama can demolish the power of this shameful, unconstitutional law once and for all.
Rev. Alicia Forde
UUA Program Coordinator for Multicultural Congregations