By Ryan Nistler
It’s been rather interesting to watch the theatrics regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Here is a law that, according to recent polls, most Americans support repealing. And yet, the law remains on the books following the Defense Authorization Bill’s aborted run through the U.S. Senate. When opponents of the repeal were confronted with questions why they did not support it, two notable excuses included a perceived lack of debate regarding the amendment to frustration that legislature should wait for the military to consider the implications of the repeal first, prior to enactment. Oddly enough, both of these specific excuses were accounted for, with Senator Reid’s guarantee that the amendment would be debated and language built into the amendment that required the military to investigate implications of the repeal before it took effect. My personal opinion is that the repeal did not pass because of grandstanding on what is perceived as a contentious issue on the eve before a national election. Republicans were able to show solidarity on an issue that has long been, and pardon my vulgarities, a money shot for Republicans.
The real disappointment here is that for the first time at a national or state level, a fundamental issue of equality for gays and lesbians stood a chance of passing through a legislated act. While I support the court decisions that have allowed gay marriage in various states, e.g. the finding that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and the recent overturn of the ban on gay adoption in Florida, all of these decisions have been handed down from the bench. Now, most Americans seem to have forgotten that the Judicial branch is a key component of our triumvirate government. Its primary function being that of oversight, determining laws that violate the state and federal constitutions. The courts have long been at the forefront of social justice, simply due to the fact that prejudice is not written into the constitution, and while they do not have a flawless record in this regard, they are often the first line of defense that a repressed minority has against oppressive majority.
However, too often in today’s climate, the courts are seen by the Right as bastions of Leftist or anti-American sentiment. Anti-American being, of course, whatever the Right makes it out to be for that week. A general sentiment exists that liberal crackpot judges are manifesting themselves as single-person judicial slaughterhouses, single-handedly massacring outdated moral philosophies and overturning populist opinions…never mind how unconstitutional these populist opinions may be. These are the type of people who have an idea of America in their head that corresponds to their opinion and values and who feel their liberty is threatened when people they don’t agree with are given rights and responsibilities. It’s too easy for them to dismiss these judges as liberal activist judges reveling in abusing their power to upset the conservative masses.
Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as an act of congress, would hold perceived weight amongst these social tyrants because having elected officials cast their ballot appears to be much more “democratic” (it’s not, by the way). It’s too bad that even those members of the Senate that support the repeal, chose instead to vote against it because their priority lies in getting themselves and their brethren re-elected, rather than using legislature to right a previous wrong.