There may be at least two good reasons not to be overly concerned about the repeal by Congress of the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that for a long time prohibited the open service of homosexuals in the U.S. military.
The first is that the underlying assumptions of the existing policy were themselves ethically and morally shabby. For most of two decades, we have lived with a policy of pretense. To keep living a deliberate if quiet lie, and to do so as a matter of official policy, is hardly to aim at a constructive solution to any problem.
The second reason is that our society was already on a separate speedway toward the same result. If Congress hadn't voted as it did, there's little doubt that our nation's courts would have brought us to the same shameful end. And probably with unseemly haste.
So I'm not sure we should see what Congress did just before Christmas as a watershed decision. We were already in pretty bad shape.
But if we're tempted in any way to yawn now and accept what Congress has done with a ho-hum "I-guess-that-was-inevitable" spirit, we need to be radically aroused. Our societal rendezvous with at least three related but much bigger issues has suddenly been radically advanced on the calendar. Any one of the three may-as we engage it-make the military issue seem almost incidental. We may even find ourselves inclined to ask, some time from now: "Why did we waste time on that?"
The most immediate of those three larger issues is the definition of marriage. Charles Colson was on target a little more than a year ago to lead in the highly pro-active drafting of the Manhattan Declaration on this subject. And he was right then to seek the enlistment of thousands of thoughtful people to affirm the truth that marriage-even in the eyes of the state-must be seen as the committed relationship of one man and one woman. If the marriage issue still seems a bit blurry and tangential to you, you should brush up on it by reading a magnificently clear and helpful paper by Princeton University's Robert George. Go to manhattandeclaration.org, sign on, and ask for a PDF of the easy-to-read 43-page document. It's free for those who sign.
If our society can't think straight about something as basic and obvious as marriage, we may have to resign ourselves to living for the next generation or two in an essentially pagan context.
Yet a second issue closing in on us is more ominous. It's not just that folks in the homosexual community want for themselves the rights and privileges of marriage. It's not just that they don't want to be excluded from full participation in every expression of public participation-like politics, commerce, entertainment, or education. Beyond all that, they insist increasingly that none of us in what have been our private settings be able to exclude them. If a homosexual reporter or writer wants to work for WORLD magazine, these folks insist it should be a crime for us at WORLD to refuse employment to any such person. In this new climate, freedom of association is very much at risk. Churches, schools, and even families will face more and more serious penalties for failure to comply.
But take notice: Even that won't satisfy. Even to discuss these issues in the manner of this column, where I've taken care not to be incendiary or insulting, is seen by many in and around the homosexual community as hateful. For them, to disagree is to hate. And for them, to hate in such a manner is to forfeit one's right even to discuss the issue. Such offenses, they believe, trump our traditional concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Talk about a slippery slope! When the basics like marriage, freedom of association, and freedom of expression are all on the edge of being traded away, why should we be surprised that Congress finds it easy to say we'll quit fibbing about service in the military?
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