Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Defend Marriage

The Army has been circulating a document called “Top Ten Things You Need to Know About the Repeal of DADT,” meant to provide officers with guidance for dealing with the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibition against open homosexuals serving in the military.  Point #5 of this document states that the government is prohibited from “recognizing any same-sex marriage, so same sex partners do not qualify as dependents for many benefits and services.”  The authority cited for this prohibition is… the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Obama unilaterally declared unconstitutional yesterday.

As Elaine Donnelly at the Center for Military Readiness points out, Point #6 of this document states that “sexual orientation will not be placed alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin as a class under the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Program,” but the new Obama directives regarding the Defense of Marriage Act do indeed elevate classification based on sexual orientation to that level of consideration.

Concurring with the President’s exercise of his power as the new self-appointed Constitution Czar, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically cited the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a reason for stuffing the DOMA into one of the Administration’s many cobwebbed closets.  It would seem DADT repeal mortally wounded the DOMA, which in turn has driven the repeal of DADT into chaos.

It’s almost enough to make you think that raw government power shouldn’t be used to over-rule the ancient wisdom of the human race.

I was reluctantly opposed to the repeal of DADT.  Placing obstacles in the path of anyone with a sincere desire to serve in the military should never be done lightly, but the military must have the ability to regulate the behavior of soldiers.  DADT was a prohibition against behavior, not people.  Asking gay soldiers to respect this prohibition was asking a lot of them, without question… but sometimes the military has to ask a lot from its troops.  I was ultimately persuaded that the chaos resulting from the overturning of this policy would outweigh its benefits to the military.  That judgment turns out to have been correct.

Laws become more complicated as their enforcement requires greater amounts of force to be deployed against larger numbers of people.  A system of complex laws becomes increasingly unjust, as it becomes more difficult for the citizens to understand it.  When it reaches the point where legal professionals can’t understand it, society has a problem.

In this case, the Defense of Marriage Act is an exercise of legal force, designed to prevent some states from forcing others to recognize a re-definition of marriage.  The traditional definition of marriage, as a bond between one man and one woman, is understood by the vast majority of people.  Whatever your personal opinion of this arrangement, you can’t deny that it has been the long-established understanding in our society, and its European progenitors.  That doesn’t mean it’s automatically and eternally “right,” but it does mean that changing it requires altering the default position of society, and that will require a considerable amount of either force or persuasion.

Because so many of those people are, in the truest sense of the word, “tolerant,” they don’t want to support laws that would insult gays, or prevent them from forming honorable long-term relationships… but they also don’t really want the concept of “marriage” re-written.  Compelling them to accept the new definition of marriage, at a national level, requires a much greater deployment of legal force than allowing states to settle the issue one at a time, and ensuring that no state can compel another to recognize its judgment.

Naturally, someone who doesn’t think “marriage” has to involve one man and one woman will not be comfortable with the idea that one state can redefine it, while another sticks to the traditional arrangement.  Convincing every state to accept the new definition, one at a time, is a lot of hard work – but it requires far less compulsive force than the alternative.

When a single individual, such as President Obama, over-rides the legal machinery of both states and Congress to impose his views, and they run counter to the long-standing traditions of most people, the maximum level of force and complexity has been reached.  Persuasion has been abandoned, as surely as if the next President voided the laws allowing public workers to unionize by fiat.  Complicated times are ahead, for both the military and civilians.