Gays in the Army v. the Civil Rights Movement

I read an article in the Times today by Frank Rich that made me want to take a little sidebar from my writings on history and address current events.

The article points out that most Republicans who were once fierce opponents of gay rights are now distancing themselves from the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' debate. The article reasons that attitudes in the last 20 years have changed regarding gays and that it would not be politically expedient for the Republicans to retreat to tired social arguments when they're trying to attract independent voters who might identify with their fiscal responsibility and small government message.

Frank Rich points out that the arguments about troop cohesion, morale etc. being damaged by by the inclusion of gays in the military were all the same ones that were used in the 50's when Truman ordered the integration of the Army.

This got me thinking about the weight of history that some of the conservative leaders must surely feel bearing down on them. Gays and Mexicans (illegal immigrants) might be some of the last acceptable targets of borderline bigotry to score political points, but it won't be that way forever. Surely Orrin Hatch and gang must know that with the momentum of acceptance of gays in America, if they make a strong stand against eliminating this bias, in twenty years, their biographers will be writing things like "it was a different time...", "he also did some good things" etc.

It also made me think about how uncontroversial the idea of not forcing military gays to be closeted is vs. the idea of allowing blacks into the Army in the 1950's. In the 1950's, a black person had to drink out of a separate water fountain in many parts of this country and could literally be LYNCHED for looking at the wrong white person's wife. Southern Whites made up a large percentage of the Army and certainly needed to be forced into this arrangement.

Gays on the other hand, although they face some overt discrimination, are overall allowed to freely travel where they want throughout the country, work where they want and go to school where they want. It's more and more obvious that this and the marriage issue are going to be resolved for good in our generation's lifetime and that those that stand in the way will look worse and worse when the history books on this period are written.

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