The Spectacle Blog

DADT, DOMA and the Failure of Conservative Leadership

By on 9.20.11 | 1:59PM

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, sadly, is now history. And its demise is being celebrated by the media as a milestone on the march to "civil rights" and "equality" for gay men and women.

But in fact, just as with same-sex marriage, DADT has never been about civil rights or equality. Lesbians and homosexuals have always enjoyed the same legal rights and protections as every other American -- including the right to serve in the U.S. military, albeit not openly as gay men and women.

Indeed, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a very reasonable and legitimate compromise measure that protected the integrity of the U.S. military's unique warrior culture, while still allowing gay men and women to serve.

Given that sexuality (unlike race or ethnicity) is a profound behavioral characteristic, and given that the U.S. military fights as a team or unit, and not as individuals, Don't Ask, Don't Tell made eminent sense.

Unfortunately, the U.S. military took its cues from the politicians and was no match in any case for the raw political power of the gay lobby.

Conservatives, meanwhile, mostly sat out this fight and acquiesced in the left's attack on this, one of the last remaining bastions of cultural conservatism.

Many of these conservatives will come to regret that they were AWOL in the DADT fight. And that's because now that the left has weakened and subdued the U.S. military, its confidence level has skyrocketed. Thus it has set its sites set on bigger game. Its next big target: the institution of marriage.

"Now that DADT is behind us, it's time to go get DOMA, don't you think?" tweeted Delaware Democratic senator Chris Coons.

"There are still issues concerning benefits that have nothing to do with the legacy of DADT and everything to do with DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act," warns the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart. For example,

because of DOMA, the surviving same-sex spouse of a service member is out of luck in receiving the same considerations a surviving straight spouse. You better believe there are plans in the works to right this wrong...

As I've written here at the American Spectator, I am not optimistic that conservatives and traditionalists can prevail against the awesome political and cultural power of the gay lobby. Our political challenge lies in distinguishing between tolerance and acceptance on the one hand, and affirmation and approval on the other hand.

In our rights-based political culture, that's not an easy distinction to make. And it's especially difficult to make that distinction when you are afraid to explain why anyone has legitimate reason -- rooted in morality, aesthetics, and public health -- not to put homosexuality on a legal and social par with heterosexuality. Yet, that is something which conservatives seem unwilling or unable to do. Consequently, they (we) are losing big time politically.

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