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Opening Arguments

Pride in serving

Americans continue to strongly support ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gays in the military, but that's not the really interesting part:

The finding that majorities of weekly churchgoers (60%), conservatives (58%), and Republicans (58%) now favor what essentially equates to repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy implemented under President Clinton in 1993 is noteworthy for several reasons.

First, the data show that these traditionally conservative groups are shifting on this issue, supporting it to a far greater extent than they support legalized gay marriage.

It's something I've certainly changed my mind on, not just as a conservative, but as someone whose libertarian and conservative instincts are usually at war on such issues.

When the idea was first proposed, I wrote that it was sort of an old-fashioned idea: " 'Don't ask, don't tell' was how we did things. It was the way we got along." Once, we celebrated our common culture and became more than the sum of our parts. But now, we are only parts. Differences are not something to transcend but something we demand other people notice. We have no patience anymore for sifting differences until we find common ground: "If the price for gays to serve in the military (which one would think requires some submerging of self anyway) is that they have to be a little less stridently demanding about their differences, so be it."

But the libertarian point, which has won my internal argument, says that we ask that price only of gays in the military, and something that isn't required of all is inherently unfair. It's called, after all, the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Don't require people who are willing to serve, and sacrifice their lives if need be, to lie by omission about who they are.

A larger point, though, is that we should want the military to spend most of its time and energy on matters of our defense and security. Ending DA,DT would mean letting gays serve openly, and we should ask military leaders to assess the effectiveness on the mission of such a policy. If they say it would harm the military, they should be asked to explain why it hasn't seemed to affect the mission readiness of militaries that already let gays serve openly.