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While Americans grappled over the military’s contentious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in court last week, the Argentine Senate passed a bill last Thursday legalizing gay marriage and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
Arguments for and against the don’t ask, don’t tell policy regarding LGBT members’ service in the military, began last week Tuesday in a California federal court. The original lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the rule was filed in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans – a Republican group that supports gay rights.
According to the Log Cabin Republicans’ executive director, the group is arguing that don’t ask, don’t tell “violates constitutional protections of due process and freedom of speech.” Two service members who were discharged for their sexuality – a former Navy officer and Air Force major – are expected to testify in court.
As many news sources are reporting, this case puts the Obama administration and Justice Department in a strange situation. President Obama has made it clear that LGBT rights are on his agenda, and most politicians agree that a repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell is inevitably near. Now, with this lawsuit in court, the Justice Department is being forced to defend the very policy that Obama is pushing to rescind.
While the timing for this case, which was filed back in 2004, is tricky for the Justice Department, it is nonetheless an important step for LGBT rights in America. As it draws more attention to the military’s treatment of the LGBT community, hopefully Congress will feel the heat to act swiftly and dissolve don’t ask, don’t tell.
South of the equator, Argentina’s senate voted 33-27 to legalize same-sex marriage last week, making it the tenth country to do so. By legalizing marriage, and not just civil unions, same-sex couples will have the same rights as heterosexual couples, including child adoption.
For me, what is most striking about the Argentine Senate’s landmark decision is the fact that majority of the Argentine population is Catholic. Eighty percent of Argentineans are practicing Roman Catholic – a religion which historically opposes same-sex relationships.
It seems to me that America needs to take a hint from Argentina. If a country composed predominantly of Catholics can legalize same-sex marriage, why can’t our nation, which prides itself on separation of church and state, put religion aside and vote with people’s rights in mind?
At the Opportunity Agenda, we feel that opportunity requires a commitment to a core set of values, one of which is equality. To us, equality is both the absence of discrimination and the presence of fairness. While America is still many steps away from becoming a country that treats the LGBT community with the fairness and respect that all Americans deserve, the repealing of don’t ask, don’t tell will bring us one step closer to that goal of equality.
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The Opportunity Agenda is a project of Tides Center