Repeal of DADT: What Next?

Posted on December 22nd, 2010 by Katherine Franke

With President Obama’s signature putting the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell today, one might think: finally!  Lesbians and gay men can now serve their country openly and as patriots just like heterosexuals.  What is more, since the U.S. military is the country’s largest employer, the repeal of DADT should be seen as a victory for poor and working class gay men and lesbians, since so many people join the military to get better jobs, education and training.

Now that lesbians and gay men can serve openly in the U.S. military, we can shift our sights to other issues where “our” interests are under threat, such as repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, winning the case challenging Prop 8, and getting laws passed in Congress (ENDA) and in state legislatures prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Well yea, but only sort of.   These other horizons for LGBT rights pop up on the civil rights radar for a reason.  They concern people who have jobs to lose, want to or are able to marry, and have resources that need protecting through legal recognition.  And let’s just think critically for a moment about what it means to applaud military service as a form of economic justice for poor and working class members of the community.

A homeless veteran in New York City: Photo by Jonathan Greenwald (CC)

Queers for Economic Justice has done this critical thinking in a statement they released today situating the repeal of DADT in a larger context that points out the costs of serving in the military, and that military service cannot substitute for more comprehensive approaches to the un- and under employment of many, many Americans – some of them gay or lesbian.  Here is an excerpt from their statement, reminding us of the more vulnerable among us:

QEJ believes military service is not economic justice, and it is immoral that the military is the nation’s de facto jobs program for poor and working-class people. And since QEJ organizes LGBTQ homeless people in New York City, we wanted to remind the LGBT community and progressive anti-war allies that militarism and war profiteering do not serve the interests of LGBT people. Here’s how:

– The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that about one-third of all homeless people in the US are veterans, but about 1.5 million more veterans are at risk of homelessness “due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.” They also report that 56% of homeless veterans are Black or Latino.

– Some studies also show that one in four veterans becomes disabled as a result of physical violence or emotional trauma of war. There are currently 30,000 disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

– Rape and sexual violence are very common occurrences for women in the military, and the ACLU is currently suing the Pentagon to get the real numbers on reported incidences. [see earlier post on this]

– Half of the US budget in 2009 was made up of military spending, including current expenditures, veterans benefits and the portion of the national debt caused by military costs, according to the War Resisters’ League. That is more than the US spent on Health & Human Services, Social Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Department Education combined. Wouldn’t more social safety net spending help the millions of queers who can barely make ends meet?

In short, military service is not economic justice. Read the whole statement here.


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