President Obama has just signed the law allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the U.S. military. “This morning I am proud to sign a law bringing an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he said. No one should have to “sacrifice their integrity” to wear the uniform of the U.S. armed forces, he said.
He singled out Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for helping him achieve a campaign pledge to end the 17-year old ban. He added that his conversations with each of the four military service chiefs has convinced him that the training necessary before the ban is officially lifted can be done “swiftly.” He added that “we are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.”
The Pentagon itself is basking in public approval, which isn’t something it always gets. It has this daily clipping service that rounds up stories on the military that it sends via email to thousands of Defense Department officials in Washington and around the world. Generally, they’re dispatches from war zones, committee hearings and Oval Office meetings – everything an action officer needs to know about what’s going on before that first briefing with the boss at oh-dark-thirty each morning.
At the bottom of the list are occasional editorials from various newspapers. Beyond stories reporting on Pentagon actions, these editorials are read avidly by everyone from top Defense Department officials to lowly officers eager for approval from the wider world. Often, they don’t get it and such editorials can sting. But this week – for three days running now – there have been a total of 15 editorials, all praising the Senate for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The papers praising the step are not just from the reliably Democratic northeast – journals from more conservative precincts including the Arizona Republic, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Kansas City Star and the Memphis Commercial Appeal all have hailed the move. Not sure if this means the country was ahead of the politicians in lifting the ban on openly gay service, or if newspaper editorial writers are inherently more relaxed about such matters. Most likely: some of each. But the unanimity, so far anyway, is surprising.