- Published on Friday, 27 April 2012
- Written by Peter Burnett
It has been a monumental struggle for lgbt people serving in the military, literally for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks generally shrugged it off, though Plato mused that a regular army was no match on the battlefield against a force made up of lovers and those they were intimate with. What would he know though? His republic had plenty oddities to it, and it wasn't the most tolerant place, anyway. But for other armies, like the US army, acceptance has been slower to materialise.
The debate over lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals serving in the U.S. military has been a social and political fire starter for generations, but has taken on even greater controversy since 1993. That was the year that President Bill Clinton signed into the law the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill which prohibited discrimination against closeted homosexuals, but banned openly gay people from serving in the military and required their dismissal. The ‘Don’t Ask’ part of the legislation disallowed military superiors from investigating a service person’s sexual orientation without having solid evidence of homosexual behaviour. What a muddle. New legislation was introduced by President Barack Obama in 2010 to create new pathways for acceptance of LGBT individuals into the U.S. Armed Forces, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally repealed on September 20, 2011.
But that was not the end of the story. It’s all a bit of dog’s breakfast in America, as many conservative politicians and religious groups have allied to force the issue once again. But where did it all begin? Obviously, because of the country’s short history, discrimination against homosexuals has been around since the colonial times. The great American Revolutionary War general and the nation’s first president, George Washington, dismissed a soldier in 1778 for participating in homosexual acts. Since then, homosexuals – and more recently lesbians, bisexual, and transgender soldiers – have only had it tougher when trying to serve their country.
One person who championed the cause for homosexuals in the military – and the rights of LGBT persons everywhere – was a man named Frank Kameny. Besides being one of the most significant figures in the American Gay Rights Movement, Kameny was a former soldier in the U.S. Army who later served as an astronomer with the Army Map Service but was fired in 1957 because of his homosexuality. Kameny decided to challenge the ruling by the U.S. Civil Service Commission – which upheld his dismissal – by taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the Court denied Kameny’s petition.
Frank Kameny devoted the rest of his life to LGBT activism. The struggles of soldiers like Frank Kameny continue to this very day.
The image used in this article has a Wikimedia file location here, and was uploaded by user Multichill, or rather one of Multichill's bots. This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.