by Dana Rudolph May 04, 2010 08:40 AM (PT) Topics: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, LGBT Families Share 18 2183 Views I’ve been trying to figure out what bothers me most about Friday’s letter from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the House Armed Service Committee. In the letter, Gates asked Congress not to pass a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) until after the Pentagon can complete a study of its impact. A quick DADT repeal, he said, “would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for [servicemembers] and their families.” Mike Jones here at Change.org pointed out that maintaining discrimination sends “a very damaging message,” too. He also discusses how Gates’ letter feels like a betrayal from the Obama administration. I agree. The part of the letter that’s been getting under my skin, though? Gates’ assertion that repeal would have “a direct impact and consequence for [servicemembers] and their families.” The way he phrased the sentence — “our men and women in uniform” — make it clear he is talking in general terms, and not about the gay and lesbian members of the military. What possible “impact” and “consequence” could he imagine? Gay soldiers making passes at straight ones in the showers? There are regulations against that, no matter what a soldier’s orientation or gender. Either we trust most of our servicemembers to obey the regulations, or we admit that the military has a discipline problem that goes way beyond LGBT issues. Maybe it means the children of gay and lesbian servicemembers will talk about their families at the on-base schools, and the (civilian) teachers will have to explain that “Yes, Heather does have two mommies.” Public schools have been dealing with those issues (with greater or lesser success) for years now. On-base schools, I imagine, will do no worse. Even the Chair of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Congress, “I have served with homosexuals since 1968.” My suspicion is that a large number of gay and lesbian servicemembers are already out (overtly or not) to their units, and a DADT repeal would not drastically change how their fellow servicemembers view them. As for deeply closeted servicemembers, chances are they will come out carefully, still not wanting to create disruptions. The servicemembers and their families who will be directly impacted by a repeal of DADT are, of course, the gay and lesbian ones, as I’ve written before. I know a lesbian family with one mom in the military. They must send their children to an off-base school, not the higher-quality on-base one with a peer group of military children, for fear that their kids might inadvertently out them. Their children cannot go to on-base holiday parties, and cannot meet their mother’s plane when her unit comes back from Iraq. Gates’ letter reminds me of those who claim that same-sex couples who marry somehow harm the marriages of opposite-sex couples. No opposite-sex couple I know has ever gotten a divorce because of a gay wedding. If Gates is worried about impact and consequence, he had better be thinking of the gay and lesbian servicemembers and their families. Otherwise, his concerns seem akin to asking about the impact and consequence for white people when buses and water fountains were desegregated. Should we have done another study on that and kept black people at the back of the bus for longer?