Dec. 18, 2010 will be remembered as the day the U.S. Congress passed its first stand-alone pro-LGBT piece of legislation, repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that has ruined thousands of lives and careers during nearly 20 years on the books.
The progress on gay acceptance in those 17 years is truly remarkable. In 1993, the images in the mainstream media around gays in the military were dominated by a homophobic Sen. Sam Nunn, touring a cramped submarine to dramatize just how closely straight sailors would be forced to bunk with their gay colleagues.
Fast forward to 2010 and Nunn supports repeal and the chief opponent of lifting the ban — an increasingly irrelevant Sen. John McCain — is widely demonized in the media as out-of-touch and bigoted. The dominant images in the debate this time around consist of brave men and women cruelly kicked out of the military who are merely asking for their jobs back. What a difference 17 years makes.
So many brave individuals and hard-working organizations deserve credit for this momentous victory — from all the discharged service members who spoke out, to President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, SLDN, HRC, Servicemembers United, Palm Center and more.
This win took too long and the 11th hour desperation of it all raises serious doubts about the viability of future pro-LGBT legislation. If an issue backed by nearly 80 percent of Americans is this difficult, imagine the fight over trans-inclusive ENDA or relationship recognition. But the post-mortem can wait for next week.
For now we celebrate and remember all those brave service members — like Maj. Alan Rogers — who can’t be here to share in this historic moment.