"Don't ask, don't tell," or DADT, was enacted in 1996 as a compromise between political parties to allow members of a sexual minority to serve in the military so long as they concealed their sexual orientation while serving. While this may have seemed like the best political move then, the policy does not reflect the best wisdom of 2010.
Not allowing people to share stories of their loved ones or their family life may actually harm the morale and cohesion that the policy was supposed to preserve. How is it permissible to let one service member show pictures of his or her family to another solider, and ban that other soldier from doing the same?
As a gay man, I would have loved to serve honorably and with dignity alongside members of my family and friends. Both of my grandpas were in the Navy; one served in both World War II and the Korean War. Both of my parents served in the Navy as well, and my only brother is currently serving as an officer in Baghdad. I also have many close friends who serve in the Army, and through my anecdotal interactions, most people say they have other things to worry about than sexual orientation.
If DADT had been repealed when I was in high school or college, my life course might have been different. Honorably serving, however, meant being true to myself and to the people around me, so I opted to serve my country in another way. I believe that everyone who is able should be allowed to stand up and serve his or her country.
In the beginning of this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified in support of a yearlong assessment to determine what could happen and what needs to happen if DADT is repealed. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, also expressed to Congress his personal view that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly. In late May, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to end DADT.
Even with these actions by the other branches of the government, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips heard the case against DADT. Judge Phillips proceeded to deliver a political verdict that puts Congress and the president in a bind. While President Obama has said his personal beliefs are that DADT should be repealed, he has an obligation to act as an enforcer of the laws that are still in place. His administration is torn between the personal beliefs of the president and the standing law. The question now is whether this administration is going to appeal.
If Congress were to repeal DADT, then both sides, whether they agree with the policy or not, could agree with the political process. On the other hand, Judge Phillips may have felt that she had no choice but to hear the case. She may have assumed Congress was at a standstill and that inaction was violating people's First Amendment right of free speech. Many representatives and senators are more interested in trying to keep their jobs than in of doing what the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs think is right, or what they themselves think is right.
The issue is not black and white. While I don't commend Judge Phillips for this perceived instance of judicial activism, I can understand her willingness to take the case under the assumption that Congress might not be willing to act. In due time, though, we must repeal DADT through the proper political process -- a congressional vote and a signature from the president -- so it may not be appealed.
Andrew Minck is a resident of Minnesota and a masters candidate in public administration at NYU's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. He served with Teach for America after college instead of joining the armed forces.