Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010 will go down in history as a pivotal and unprecedented milestone in the struggle for equality for lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
“This is a very good day,” said President Obama, in a moving 20 minute speech before he signed into law the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” that for 17 years discriminated against gay members of the United States Military.
Speaking directly to gay service members, Obama acknowledged a “particular kind of sacrifice” requiring them to, “carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation and all the while you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.”
Although Obama said they are not the first to carry this burden, it is clear they will be the last, and called active gay service members, “role models” for those who follow them.
The president warned gays now serving that the old policy remains in place until the process of repeal is certified by him, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chmn. Admiral Mike Mullen, assuring, “We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.”
Once certified, there will be a 60 day waiting period before the repeal is fully implemented. Until then, gay service members may still be vulnerable of being discharged under DADT.
Addressing potential effects of the repeal is University of Idaho Professor and Constitutional Law Scholar, David Adler.
“This lights a path forward for greater protection, on both, due process and equal protection grounds found within the 5th and 14th amendments,” Adler told Citydesk
Adler says the long term ramifications may be, “more serious consideration of same-sex marriage and certainly an extension of benefits to partners, “ adding employment non-discrimination based on sexual orientation is, “another important implication in the extension of due process.”
While the repeal may not have an immediate effect, Adler said,” The practical effect of this action is that it knocks down barriers to due process and equal protection and makes it increasingly difficult for other federal agencies and state governments now to erect barriers to treating all people equally.”
“What this action means," said Adler, “Is that any effort from this point forward to engage in discrimination against gays and lesbians will have a much higher huddle to overcome because courts will use, I believe, the strict scrutiny test to justify discrimination on grounds of orientation that becomes more and more difficult by the day.
“This action,” said Adler, “does light that path forward for broader protection for all people including gays and lesbians.”
“People are going to look back at this moment, said President Obama, “and wonder why this was ever a source of controversy in the first place.”