While doing away with this spurious policy was certainly a good thing, it’s not enough. As The Nation’s Timothy Patrick McCarthy notes, there’s still some unfinished business:
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” outlaws some discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members, but it falls short in several important ways.
For instance, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not include specific nondiscrimination provisions. It’s clear that LGBT service members will no longer be fired for “coming out,” but it is unclear if they will be treated fairly and equally by their peers and superiors in the military.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not mandate specific mechanisms for holding members of the military accountable if they continue to harass or quietly discriminate against their LGBT peers.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not include LGBT service members in the Department of Defense Equal Opportunity policies.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not address whether LGBT service members who are legally married in, say, Massachusetts or Washington, DC, will continue to be second-class citizens when it comes to same-sex partner benefits and federal legal recognition of their union.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not include specific guarantees for reparations—separation pay, tuition remuneration, employment assistance, coverage for ongoing mental and physical health needs—for LGBT service members who have already been discharged because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does not include transgender or intersex individuals, who are still barred from serving because they are categorized as having psychological or physical “disorders.”
And this last item has direct relevance for Harvard. Earlier today, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome Navy ROTC back to campus after a 40-year absence. But this celebration—and the invitation of ROTC back to campus—is at best premature. To bar transgender and intersex people from serving their country is to still discriminate against LGBT people. If Harvard is to take its own nondiscrimination policy seriously—if it expects any of us to take it seriously—then we must require that the military tear down the walls of discrimination that remain. I know that not everyone agrees with this position. Some say, “There aren’t that many transgender people, and how many of them, really, want to serve?” But this misses the point entirely. Discrimination is discrimination. And so long as one person’s aspirations are diminished or denied because of who they are or who they love, we will still have a fight to wage. And LGB folks must be on the front lines with our transgender colleagues until all these battles are won. Incomplete justice is still injustice—at Harvard and everywhere else.