By the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle
President Obama is on record to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” yet, gay and lesbian service members remain at risk for discrimination. That's about to change. Last week, the Pentagon made it harder to fire gays from the military because Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved new rules to ease enforcement of the 1993 congressional ban, saying the changes reflect "common sense and common decency."
This represents the first significant step by the administration to address what Obama calls an "injustice." The changes would tighten the rules of evidence when someone reports that a soldier is gay and put higher-ranking officers in charge of dismissal proceedings.The new guidelines also will prevent the current ban from being used to launch witch hunts or settle grudges,
Almost 14,000 responsible and dedicated service members have been discharged under the law. Gates said the changes, effective immediately, are "an important improvement in the way the law is put into practice," short of repealing it. The changes give "a greater measure of common sense and common decency for handling what are complex and difficult issues for all involved," he told a Pentagon news conference.
Last week also saw the House of Bishops electing the new Suffragan Bishop for Armed Forces: the Rev. Dr. James "Jay" Magness. He was chosen out of a field of eight nominees. A simple majority of the votes cast by the bishops was necessary for the election, according to the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs. Magness received 64 votes; 54 were required. He is canon for mission and diocesan administration in the Diocese of Southern Virginia.
At the recent House of Bishops meeting, Bishop Gene Robinson asked Magness his position on DADT. This was his response. "I absolutely support the lifting of this restriction. It is time for us to make it possible for our gay and lesbian military members, many of whom provide dedicated and excellent service, and are in very responsible leadership positions, to be equals with everyone else in the Department of Defense. It is difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to be caught in the bind between their fearfulness of their respective military organizations and their dedication to the country they love”.
Bishop-elect Magness’s consecration is scheduled for June 19, 2010 at Washington National Cathedral, Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori will preside.
Integrity USA joins all those who call for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We recommit our advocacy for all LGBT people serving in the military, as well as those in the church and the world.
Rev. Canon Albert Ogle is Integrity’s Vice President for National and International Affairs.