Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

President Signs DADT Repeal: What This Means for America’s LGBTQ Community

Washington, D.C. – In a breakthrough moment for the LGBTQ community, President Barack Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into law today.  The ceremony was held in the Interior Department to accommodate a large and emotional crowd of witnesses to the making of American history.  The meaning of this moment will unfold and grow over time.  But this much at least may be said now: LGBTQ Americans have moved one significant step closer to full equality because of this political victory.  The President noted that while the struggle to repeal DADT has gone on for nearly two decades, this day is a culmination of untold sacrifice and heroism on the part of LGBTQ servicemembers and their families for over 200 years.  From the American Revolution to the current Iraqi and Afghan conflicts, gay and lesbian patriots have fought for the freedoms they themselves have not fully known.  Most of their service has been hidden in the anonymity of history for obvious reasons.  To serve openly as gay was not tolerated in the American armed forces. The darker side of this history is the story of untold thousands who have been persecuted, harassed, harmed, and killed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender presentation.  The Unfinished Lives Project and other efforts have sought to chronicle some of these stories: Army PFC Barry Winchell, Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler, Seaman August Provost, and Army veteran Michael Scott Goucher, to name but a few.  Not only have the battlefields of the world been consecrated with the blood of LGBTQ American servicemembers.  The closets of the military in all branches of the service are likewise battlegrounds stained with queer blood.  The signature of President Obama should not become a coda to their memory.  If anything, this moment should give the LGBTQ community added impetus to remember and honor our war dead–both on the battlefield of honor and on the battlefields of American prejudice.  This moment is fraught with religious and theological significance, as well.  Now that this landmark legislation for human rights and dignity is the law of the land, the recalcitrant majority of conservative military chaplains must choose to fulfill their pledge of service to all the nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardsmen. Human rights and dignity are a prophetic dimensions of all the advance theologies of the world since time immemorial, but the savage side of religion has often displaced God’s favor for all people with a purist extremism that honors neither God or country. The crucial choice now is in the lap of the fundamentalist military chaplaincy, who have discounted the good service of LGBTQ women and men for decades, and the religious righteousness of their chaplaincy peers who have embraced LGBTQ servicemembers as children of God.  It is time for the fundamentalist chaplains in the armed services, including the chiefs of chaplains in the Army, Navy, and Air Force to either salute smartly and comply with the law, or take their pensions and go.  The choice is theirs.  The moderate and progressive religious communities in this nation are faced with another type of challenge.  They must re-evaluate their stance toward military service, and remove institutional and ecclesial impediments to honorable service.  Seminaries on the theological left will need to open their doors for training the next generation of military chaplains.  For the LGBTQ community generally, the call of this day is to become a more mature and reasoned community among the peoples of this nation.  Nothing has changed for military servicemembers yet, nor will it for quite some time, until the law can be implemented throughout the armed forces.  There will be continued bias and discrimination against queer folk in the military by the military.  But LGBTQ people are now offered a renewed sense of who we are: strong, proud, sacrificial, patriotic, and peace-loving–all at the same time.  This is a red-letter day in American history, and a rainbow-colored day in the struggle for full LGBTQ equality.

December 22, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, DADT, Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, military, Military Chaplaincy, Native Americans, Politics, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Repeal of DADT, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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