At today’s Values Voter Summit, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) invoked the constitution to substantiate his support for retaining the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. “You don’t have a constitutional right to serve in the military. That’s a special society. You give us some of your constitutional rights when you do it,” Inhofe argued, in what could be interpreted as a rebuttal to Judge Phillip’s recent ruling in California. She found that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell unconstitutional because it violated the document’s protections of free speech and due process, but Inhofe countered that these things don’t necessarily apply to the military. As Gen. McCarthy demonstrated, soldiers give up certain rights when they enter the armed forces and the institution does not have to abide by the same rules as civil society. It can and does discriminate.
Proponents of repealing DADT and Judge Phillips maintain that discriminating against gay people would actually undermine the military’s unique mission and today — on Constitution day — The Brookings Institute’s Peter Singer adds another historical layer to adds a historical point to the debate:
Just a generation ago, in the era of the draft, military service was viewed as something different. It was framed not so much as part of a discussion of political rights, but as an obligation of citizenship, a duty necessary to protect rights. In turn, going back further to the founding days of the republic, both the idea of draft, and, in turn, the idea of a professionalized force, were both anathema to many of the same writers and signers of the document. The debate over whether America should have a militia or professional Army or Navy were key point of contention during the first few presidential administrations, especially in the Jeffersonian years.
Singer argues that the nation must find a balance between protecting minority rights (Phillips’ perspective) and ensuring that the military can fulfill its mission of fighting for a common defense (Inhofe’s concerns) — a mission that’s only compromised when the Pentagon dismisses qualified, eager to serve soldiers from the military for being gay.
As he concludes, “hopefully, in the coming weeks, this is how the long overdue end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will play out, not forced by a court decision, nor once again delayed by all the horrible things Congress now suffers from not mentioned in the Constitution – poisonous partisan politics, filibusters and so forth. Rather, it will hopefully come through what the Founding Fathers hoped we would be able to achieve in the 223 years since they signed the document, a democratic process mature enough to deliberate and implement in a way that both establishes justice and ensures for the common defense.”