Action on gay rights is long overdue

February 11, 2010


We already know where this is going.

For some of us, the knowledge is hateful, for others, hopeful. Yet the inevitable arc of it is clear: Maybe it will be 10 years, maybe 20, but we can now envision a day when the last legal restrictions against gay men and lesbians will be struck away.

A future is coming in which they will be fully protected from discrimination in housing and employment, free to fall in love and tell it to the judge, to make end-of-life decisions for their partners, to adopt children. And we will look back, vaguely amazed, that such things were ever in controversy, that there was ever a time sexual orientation was used to deny basic rights and privileges.

The latest giant step in that direction was taken last week in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. There, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in favor of ending the Pentagon’s stricture against gay men and lesbians in the military and of striking down the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law under which they are required to hide their sexual orientation in order to serve.

The Pentagon has ordered a review of the potential impact of repealing the law. “Speaking for myself and myself only,” said Adm. Mullen, “it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

And if some of us found that a bracing statement of a self-evident principle, others were unconvinced.

Indeed, Republican Sen. John McCain, more politically agile now that he has jettisoned the weight of integrity, promptly reversed a 4-year-old promise that he would be guided in this matter by the opinion of military leaders, instead pronouncing himself “deeply disappointed” by Mullen and Gates’ testimony.

There is always someone who fights a rear-guard action against progress, and if he is still around to see how his words play in the history books 20 years from now, it will be entertaining to hear how McCain explains himself.

That said, one’s satisfaction in knowing the military is poised to end its sexual segregation must balance against the frustration of how long it took to get here. After all, the basic architecture of this issue has not changed since 1993.

Gay people haven’t changed. Service hasn’t changed. No, what has changed is us. We watched “Will & Grace,” we made gay friends, we found some measure of the acceptance that had always eluded us.

There is a temptation to say this is just the way progress moves, that time must be allowed to do its work. We do the right thing — eventually.

It is seductive, this idea that you and I have the right to put a timetable on other people’s freedom, that they deserve it when we are ready for them to have it and that until then, they should simply endure, simply be patient.

But if it is wrong now to deny a man the right to serve because he is gay, that means it was wrong then. If it is a foolish waste of resources now to kick a woman out because she is a lesbian, that means it was a foolish waste then. If “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a cowardly compromise with hysteria and homophobia now, then it always was.

So one’s satisfaction in this inevitable march of progress is tempered by a recognition of how many careers and futures were needlessly broken along the way. We know where this is going, but that doesn’t mitigate vexation at the fact that we could have been there long ago but for stupid intransigence and fear.

Patience is such an easy word to say.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com


denak 8 years, 2 months ago

As a former Marine, I will rejoice when Don't Ask, Don't tell is finally overturned. Not only does it undermine the trust and integrity of the unit but it is contrary to U.S. Constitution. Under Don't Ask, Don't tell, a service member can be discharged from the military on the mere suspicion that he or she is gay. No actual proof is needed. In a civilian court, the "accused" would walk free if the state failed to produce evidence (heck it probably wouldn't even get past the prelim), and yet, our Armed Forces, which is suppose to uphold the Constitution, is routinely denying our gay service members their basic rights.

I can not definitely state whether or not anyone in my unit was gay. There were whispers but no actual proof. Obviously, there probably were.

I do know one thing though. When were were sent over to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield/Desert Storm, only one Marine failed to show up on the day that we left. And he, yes he all the Women Marines showed up, was heterosexual. I know this because he was sleeping with my roommate. So obviously, patriotism, courage and integrity have nothing to do with sexual orientation.


TopJayhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

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thebigspoon 8 years, 2 months ago

Again, c1, you show your appalling ignorance of reality. Pitts is not promoting any sort of "gay agenda" simply by asking us as humans to realize tha each of us is different, in so many ways, from the others. Get a clue! Gay, straight, black, yellow, or whatever: each HUMAN has the right to prove or disprove his/her fitness to belong to the human congregation based on what he/she accomplishes in life, not, by any means, what his/her sexual, political, or religious beliefs may be, so long as her/his actions contribute in any small way to the betterment of humanity. And your bigoted, small, mean attitudes don't qualify in any way.

temperance 8 years, 2 months ago

According to consumer1, our Defense Secretary as well as a score of retired generals are part of "the gay agenda." Who knew Teh Gay conspiracy reaches so deep into our armed services?

consumer1: "Is anyone surprised that Pitts would write a story promoting the gay agenda after spending one day in Lawrence????"

Well, no, especially given Lawrence's reputation as "the Castro on the prairie." And don't forget the many hours Pitts spent in the gay part of town, going from gay bar to gay bar, meeting with local GBLT activists, as well as acting as Grand Marshall of our yearly Pride parade. So, no, I'm not surprised that the DC-based nationally syndicated columnist's thoughts on gay rights were deeply and uniquely influenced by his one-day visit to our town. How can any reasonable person conclude otherwise?

Satirical 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow, I can't believe I actually agree with Pitts' general premise (even though I disagree on several of his points).

And he didn't even bring up race!

thebigspoon 8 years, 2 months ago

Brilliant, c1, just brilliant. Trying to pass off bigotry as a joke simply confirms your bigotry. Why in God's name would anyone with any sense of justice or humanity make a "joke" of the fitness of any group of people to fit in society? At least have the courage of your convistions and stand by your supposed beliefs, but don't "test the winds" by making stupid comments and then backing up when you're called out. That's the way of a coward and you fit the bill with this line of commenting. If you don't believe what you say, don't say it. If you do, have the sense and courage to stand by your convictions. It's this type of moral non-integrity that causes confusion among thinking people and foments mindless hatred. Get with it one way or the other.

kansas_o_kansas 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't know if I agree/disagree with "barrypenders" - which side are you on anyway???

ivalueamerica 8 years, 2 months ago

Every study doen of all our major allies who openly allow gays to serve, no evidence has ever surfaced that allowing gays to serve openly causes any harm to the military capabilites, readiness or moral.

But please, bigots, do not let the facts get into the way of a good rant.

lindseydoyle 8 years, 2 months ago

The behavior in which adults choose to indulge behind closed doors should be of no one's concern but their own. Unfortunately it doesn't end there with the radical homosexual movement. Obama's own "safe schools czar" Tim Jennings, openly advocated using the security issue as a way of recruiting and indoctrinating children into homosexuality. "How do you know you don't like it if you haven't tried it?" asks one of the posters. I have nothing against homosexuals being in the military if they can keep their chosen behavior to themselves. But this is just one step towards a radical homosexual agenda.

beatrice 8 years, 2 months ago

"But this is just one step towards a radical homosexual agenda."

The agenda of wanting to be treated as people? The radical idea that people should be treated equally? Oh my! That is just insane!

Lindsey, if you believe people can be "recruited" to become homosexuals, then does this mean you could possibly change sides? Could you be recruited? No? If not, why not? Is it because you are just that strong of a person, or is it because our sexuality is hard-wired, and any amount of recruiting won't change who we are?

Ask yourself (like you might possibly question your own thoughts), why would anyone choose to be gay in America? Who wants to be ostricized, sometimes from ones own family, sometimes attacked and beaten, made to feel like an inferior human being from the likes of the self-righteous lindseys of the world? Why?

recruiting / indoctrinating -- how stupid can some people be?

lindseydoyle 8 years, 2 months ago

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Satirical 8 years, 2 months ago

So when are we going to end the discrimination of having separate bathrooms. Separate is not equal!

Satirical 8 years, 2 months ago

Clarification to my above post...separate bathrooms for men and women.

jaywalker 8 years, 2 months ago


Been looking for you on one of these strings. I wanted to congratulate you and thank you for your breakdown of porch person's 'modus operandi' (I like to call it the Porch Playbook). Brother, that is spot on!!! I like it so much I copied and saved it. A work of art, man, no foolin', you nailed it right on the head. Sincerely, well done you.

To the column:

I'm kinda torn on this, but not in an anti way. My concern isn't for the integrity of the unit, morale, or any of the other reasons some cite to oppose this action. I'm kinda worried about the repercussions that might ensue once someone's open about their homosexuality. The military has always been a macho, alpha male organization and I'm concerned that you mix too much gung ho in with a homophobe that feels 'threatened'........Don't know. Maybe it won't spawn some sort of violent retaliation, I certainly hope not. And at the same time, we need to get to this point some day, so why not now? I don't imagine the danger could be any greater than it was when they integrated blacks into white regiments, so,,,,,,,good luck.

mom_of_three 8 years, 2 months ago

Pedophiles are homosexual - I don't think that is necessarly so. Gays don't want special rights. They want the rights that the rest of us already have.

beatrice 8 years, 2 months ago

lindsey, pedophiles are most often men who identify as heterosexual, hence the number of priests involved. Further, check out who keeps getting arrested when the undercover internet stings are set up -- married men. Conflating gay to mean "pedophile" is like saying that all married heterosexual couples must support polygamy.

temperance 8 years, 2 months ago

justanothertroll: "sorry but if you have no problem with a guy sticking his penis in another guys butt, than [sic] there is something wrong with you too, it aint natural"

You know what really aint natural? Crocs. I know the company has struggled lately, but the radical croc agenda isn't going to die out and we have to be vigilant about croc-wearers trying to recruit our young into a life of hideous fashion.

50YearResident 8 years, 2 months ago

UniSex, are we next? I read an article in a magazine about bass in our rivers turning into a unisex without knowing what the cause was. Part of the headline was "Are we next"? Maybe gays and lesbians are the beginning of the human population evolving into a unisex. It was a thought provoking article.

Satirical 8 years, 2 months ago

Vertigo… “Gender and sexuality are not the same Satirical”

When did I say it was?

However, I do think one of the reasons we have separate bathrooms (both genders can use toilets) besides social custom, is sexual tension and/or fear of perverts. I agree that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly, however I think there still might be a problem with sexual tension and/or fear of perverts.

It is easy to make separate bathrooms for men and women, however when the logic sexual tension and/or fear of perverts is not a valid justification for discriminating against homosexuals, when will sexual tension and/or fear of perverts no longer be a valid justification for discrimination between bathrooms and showers in the military?

Just a question. If you see things differently I would be happy to hear your opinion.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 2 months ago


Do you not realize the stuff you are saying is simply not true? It leaves us to decide are you stupid, a liar or crazy?

Which is it

Satirical 8 years, 2 months ago


I appreciate the compliment. I created that on the day I decided to never again have a discussion with porch_person. So I decided to review a few recent records my previous discussion with him, and his discussions with others, and I noticed his pattern. A lot of people with whom I disagree still know how to argue, won’t stoop to putting words in others mouths, and will at least jump to another topic when they have been proven wrong. But not porchie. He is in a league of his own.

lindseydoyle 8 years, 2 months ago

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lindseydoyle 8 years, 2 months ago

You should read something besides the mainstream media, as if it has any credibility at all. I get my news from many sources. Where else are you going to find out that Obama's "safe schools czar", Kevin Jennings has an agenda of indoctrinating young children into homosexuality? Not the MSM, that's for sure.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 2 months ago


You are very confused about special rights. You want special rights to regulate others to second class, you want special rights to give preference to your specific version of Christianity despite the Constitutional restrictions against that, you want special rights to deny equality to any you personally oppose.

No more special rights for bigots, equality now.

anon1958 8 years, 2 months ago

kansas_o_kansas (Anonymous) says…

I don't know if I agree/disagree with “barrypenders” - which side are you on anyway???

lol dont feel bad.

Barrypenders brings an entire new meaning to the phrase "He has no idea what he is talking about?" No one knows what the hell barry means most of the time. It seems like the remotest of possibilities that barrt himself knows what he is thinking and an explanation from him is just beyond all reasonable hope.

Most of Barry's posts could be distributed among forum articles at random and it would be damn hard to notice any difference.

mockery 8 years, 2 months ago

Interesting list, Vertigo.

Could you post a similar list of animal behaviors that would fit a human's definition of:


not uncommon for the male of a species to force a female to mate.

gang rape?

Ask that female salmon in the stream whether she appreciates hundreds of suitors' attentions that in all probability will kill her.


Mutiple mates are the rule in the animal kingdom - partners for life happen in only a few species.


All animal species (and many plant species) kill others.


Many species "eat their own".


Most other species (sexually mature or not) do not carry IDs. The agressor in the mating doesn't care much about age.


Some people find it difficult to keep their dogs off their legs.

I'm not saying that I disagree with your premise but what's natural is without a doubt difficult to define and usually subject to someone's agenda.

somedude20 8 years, 2 months ago

lindseydoyle (Anonymous) says… the radical homosexual movement has a hidden agenda towards the end of recruiting and indoctrinating children, some very young, into homosexuality. As far as homosexual rights being a “special” rights, it is based upon the behavior that a person wants to indulge in, nothing more. If you want special rights for them I suggest you work to rid the movement of the radicals, some of whom are pedophiles, many of whom are iconoclasts who have a hidden agenda.

You sound like the type of person who would love to make a baby with Scott Roeder

RogueThrill 8 years, 2 months ago

No one will clearly tell me what the Radical Homosexual Agenda is, but given how boring the people against it are I can firmly state I want in. It's gotta be awesome!

Alas, there are only two rules to life: 1) there is a club and 2) you are not a member.

(I might also add that you would be shocked how many homosexual men find anal sex as unappealing as straight men do. It's a large percentage of them. You don't have to like digging coal to fall in love with with someone of the same sex. You'd also be surprised how many straight men like hole-in-oneing on the second green, to the dismay of their straight female mates.)

9070811 8 years, 2 months ago

You are absolutely entitled to your religious convictions and such however...

Anyone who doesn't support equal rights for all citizens is not a United States patriot.

BorderRuffian 8 years, 2 months ago

Gay agenda? O please!

First, why is it that a miniscule percentage of our population MUST be identified by what they do behind (hopefully) closed doors? And why should anyone else care?

Second, Why must their sexuality be thrust, literally, in our faces - as if we really are interested?

Third, why is it necessary that the vast majority of people should be forced to change their ways (that, incidently most of them consider private and non of anyone else's business) to proclaim the "specialness" of a miniscule minority?

Before anyone gets his or her panties in a knot, let me say this. I am NOT for descrimination against ANYONE. However, I am not for special accomodations (except in the case of the disabled) for anyone, especially for practices that, frankly, ought to be kept private.

I am heterosexual. What goes on behind bedroom doors between myself and my partner is NOBODY'S BUSINESS. I would hate to even imagine the idea that who I am in this world has anything to do with what I do in bed. The only one I want affected by this is my partner. NOBODY else. I only hope that when I die and my eulogy is read, that more is said about any kindnesses I have done than about what I did in the bedroom.

9070811 8 years, 2 months ago

For anyone who cares, homosexuality has been observed in nearly all discovered species.

9070811 8 years, 2 months ago

I was sooo annoyed when blacks thrust their blackness in my face to gain civil rights during the 60s!!!!

denak 8 years, 2 months ago

"....While in the 'Basic Training' showers, the guys didn't peek at you scrubbing down but the gays did notice the 'cut of your gib...."

When I was in recruit training, we had, on a good day, 2 minutes to shower which makes me wonder why BP took those precious 2-3 minutes to notice what the "gays" were noticing.

Could it be a case of protesting too loudly????


denak 8 years, 2 months ago

So, lindsey, if you are so afraid of the homosexual agenda and you feel strongly about it, then I think you would want to put your money where your mouth is and enlist. Surely, instead of hiding behind a computer screen, you would want to serve your country by combating this growing agenda and since the military looks like the new battleground, you should walk yourself down to 23rd and Louisiana and enlist.

Come on Lindsey, "woman up" and have the courage of your conviction.

Somehow, though, I don't think you are going to do that.


puddleglum 8 years, 2 months ago

government's hands off gays! stop trying to regulate homosexuals!

somedude20 8 years, 2 months ago

The worst bit about boot camp was the head (bathroom) at the rifle range had toilets sans stalls. Nothing like have 30+ toilets right next to and across from each other. FYI this was at PI not Camp Hollywood

George Lippencott 8 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like Mr. Pitts is blaming the military for this policy. Last I looked the policy is in law. Focus on the right bad guy - including many legislative members of both parties.

beatrice 8 years, 2 months ago

BR: "Why must their sexuality be thrust, literally, in our faces - as if we really are interested?"

Either you don't know the meaning of the word "literally," or you really are one of them there teabaggers.

"I am heterosexual."

Um, gee, thanks for "literally" thrusting your sexuality in our faces!

George Lippencott 8 years, 2 months ago

thebigspoon (Anonymous) says…

You know that we all have tribal instincts. We seem to actively search for differences in order to use them to discredit others and advance our own interests. Trying to achieve universal harmony is great but setting unrealistic expectations on unachievable time lines may not produce the desired results.

lindseydoyle 8 years, 2 months ago

Instead of slamming a legitimate news source why don't you try refuting any of the many, many facts they have uncovered regarding Kevin Jennings. It is all well-documented. Instead of slamming me with ad hominems why don't you try to reasonably refute any of the points I've made.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 2 months ago

So since I'm not in favor of "gay rights" or gay marriage I'm "hateful"? I do not hate one single gay person, or the group at large. It does make sense to me if you have feelings of being 'gay' and you repress them that you'll probably hate yourself as well as gay people. There is a saying Christians use, and I know it annoys most gays (not to mention Fred Phelps) "Love the sinner, hate the sin." If you're gonna hate sinners you have a very elementary problem: "for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (NT) "For there is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not." (OT)

funkdog1 8 years, 2 months ago

“I say that the radical homosexual movement has a hidden agenda towards the end of recruiting and indoctrinating children, some very young, into homosexuality.”


Calling lindseydoyle, barrypenders, mr_right_wing and troll: your Delorean is waiting to take you back to 1932.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 2 months ago

“For anyone who cares, homosexuality has been observed in nearly all discovered species.”

Let me guess on the source for that statement.... wikipedia??

antavious 8 years, 2 months ago

I am totally against being gay, but I believe that everyone has the right to have rights. Government officials need to treat them as if they weren't gay and treat them fairly.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 2 months ago

I do understand what is being done here...if we can 'prove' homosexuality exists in nature, that it is an instinct and absolutely nothing can be done about it, it would really boost the homosexual agenda. However, we need to stop and reason a moment. That line of reasoning is unsustainable. If seemingly "homosexual" acts among animals are in accordance with animal nature, then parental killing of offspring and intra-species devouring are also in accordance with animal nature. Bringing man into the equation complicates things further. Are we to conclude that filicide and cannibalism are according to human nature? Along that line I guess a woman who kills her husband could point out that black widow spiders and the praying mantis do the same kind of thing.....it was her 'natural instinct' and couldn't be helped. She's innocent.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 2 months ago

Why is it so many think that sexual preference is a choice? Why would anyone choose it? Why does anyone care?

snoozey 8 years, 2 months ago

This country was founded by the persecuted and based on the premise of individual freedom - it is appropriate that sexual preference should be given the same respect we now have for race, faith, and gender.

beatrice 8 years, 2 months ago

mrw, if sexuality is a choice, do you remember when you chose to be hetero? Was there a time when you weren't sure which side you were going to choose?

Also, since you are arguing that human nature can't be judged based on observing the animal kingdom, then that makes humans unique and special. Why would there be only one correct way of being "normal" for such a unique species of being?

It is not admirable to declare that you don't hate anyone when you wish to subject your belief system on the lives of others. That is just being self-righteous and self-centered. Live and let live - try that one on for size.

ivalueamerica 8 years, 2 months ago

It does not matter if sexuality is a choice or not....unless you also want to start denying religious freedom because that is clearly a choice.

it does not matter if the tufted titmouse mates with a female or male tufted titmouse because they are not consenting human adults.

it does not matter that some or most religions find it to be sinful as our nation is very clearly not a religious but a secular state.

It matters that all men are created equal. It matters that we all have equal access under the law. it matters that discrimination should not be legislated, it matters that bigots not be granted special rights to promote bigotry through legislation.

If it is wrong to deny blacks the right to enter the military, if it is wrong to deny Jewish people the right to rent an apartment, if it is wrong to deny an inter-racial couple the right to wed, then it is wrong to discriminate on those same basis against LGBT people.

You either oppose or support bigotry.

montevideo 8 years, 2 months ago

A few years ago, the "it's not found in nature" thing was used to justify anti-gay bias. Remember "it's unnatural", the chant used to write-off the LGBT community as weird/aliens/freaks of nature/etc? Anybody? Anybody?

Now that it's starting to become common knowledge that, in fact, it is found in nature, it is natural, the same great logicians are using this fact to argue that LGBT folks are depraved animals. OK, I give up, keep your hatred.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 2 months ago

"This country was founded by the persecuted and based on the premise of individual freedom" === True, but once they got here they began to persecute each other over religious differences; then they took it out on the Native Americans just for good measure. I recommend Gary Wills "Under God" for a good treatment of the topic and how it really was in the colonies.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 2 months ago

"It is not admirable to declare that you don't hate anyone when you wish to subject your belief system on the lives of others. That is just being self-righteous and self-centered. Live and let live - try that one on for size."

Your talking about the agenda of homosexuals? Yeah, they do exactly that. The popular vote is against same-sex marriage, they take it to the next level. Votes have reflected that most do not want same-sex marriage allowed; and as you said...the homosexuals just won't stop pushing their 'belief system' on us as a society. Good point. Homosexuals cannot 'reproduce' so they need to seize any advantage they possibly can (regardless if we as a society like it or not.)

To me one of the most offensive things they do is compare themselves to the racial civil rights movement....apples and oranges people (no 'fruit' pun intended there.)

Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

Lenny needs to talk to his fellow persons of color in California. About 70% of them voted for Prop 8 that turned down same-sex marriage. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/06/AR2008110603880.html

beatrice 8 years, 2 months ago

mrw: "Your talking about the agenda of homosexuals? Yeah, they do exactly that."

Nobody is forcing you not to accept your heterosexuality. Nobody is saying you can't marry because you are hetero. However, you are doing exactly that to others. You are trying to tell others how they can and cannot live their lives.

In what way would two men marrying one another have an effect on you personally? Why would you possibly care? (You do know that when gay marriage is legal, it won't be mandatory, don't you?)

Consider left handed individuals. They are in the minority, thus not "normal," and they probably just chose to be left-handed anyway. If two left-handed people have children, there is no guarantee that their child will be left-handed, so they can't reproduce their own kind. So I guess you would be in favor of not allowing left-handed people from marrying, especially if voters agreed, correct?

9070811 8 years, 2 months ago

What difference does it make if "gay" is a choice or biological?

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago

There is a strange legal factor:

Apparently one can be a member of a "protected class", but only if it involves things that are unavoidable, like race.

Lifestyle choices don't qualify for that, so if we're trying to use protected class legal arguments to advance gay rights, they don't work if being gay is a choice.

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago

Freedom of religion is specified in the Constitution - you don't need to use a "protected class" argument to defend it.

Unfortunately the Constitution doesn't specify that one can't discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

I'm just passing on the information I've gotten from folks more educated in the law than I am.

Personally, I don't care whether it's a choice or not - I believe gay/lesbian folks should (and do) have the same rights as the rest of us, including being able to marry/adopt children.

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