July 4th: For Some, Freedom Is Fleeting

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MANDEL NGAN / AFP / Getty Images

Fireworks light up the statue of Simon Bolivar July 4 in Washington, D.C.

Well, it’s been quite a couple of weeks, depending on your viewpoint, for social reform or social un-inform.

The Joint Chiefs, admitting the military has not done enough to ensure the safety of women and men against rape and sexual assault, still believe that the military can police its own.

What part of “they don’t get it” don’t they get?

Nothing has changed in the 20 years since the Tailhook scandal, and every year we hear of more such debauchery, rather than less. And even though more reports are being made, and more people are taken to courts martial, fewer perps are being found guilty because of the “actions of the victim,” either before, during, or after the assault.

Oh please… if a person is drinking to the point of passing out, or blacking out…how in the world can they give permission to have sex? It is not possible! No way, no how — yet military justice seems to think that it is a mitigating circumstance for the defendant(s). And to, oh by the way, assent to serial sex with more than one person?  Yeah, you would have to be drunk to think that was a good time. Yet at the Naval Academy, it is apparently a reason to discipline the woman for drinking too much, and letting the assailants go free.

Give me a break.

As I have said before, and what Congress seems to be leaning towards…is to take the chain of command out of the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes.

The whole Uniform Code of Military Justice may not need to be revised, but there are too many instances of victims not being given adequate counseling, either with regard to their personal support options, or to judicial realities. After all, an accused is still innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, so many sexual contacts deal with junior-senior relationships, that — if nothing else — such commanders should be disciplined for using their position for personal gain (an argument can be made that there is a quid pro quo assumption).

The Supreme Court…well they did something right, finding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. The court upheld basic civil rights of people to marry the person of their choice, regardless of gender. The really cool thing about this is that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has already directed that federal provisions of benefits under the military system be given to all married persons, not just heterosexual married personnel. And that Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., are drafting legislation that will upgrade discharges for those gay and lesbian veterans who received less than honorable discharges solely due to their sexual orientation. Any criminal discharges due to courts martial will still stand. I applaud this effort to decriminalize homosexuality. Chances are, though, that it will not be passed this year, especially because of our Republican-controlled House.

And here we are, post 4th of July…where we celebrated our nation’s independence from the tyranny of the British empire. And yet the freedoms that we take for granted are still not available to everyone in this country…note recent government actions that effectively disenfranchise voters and keep immigrants in limbo — as well as the ability to go to a party and not get assaulted because you drank too much.

Now that the fireworks have ended, it’s time to really celebrate with some genuine social-equality action. And the time for that is now.