A victory for honesty and anti-discrimination

by Maureen Fiedler

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This morning President Obama signed historic legislation repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that compelled gay and lesbian servicemembers to hide their sexual orientation.

At a ceremony at the Interior Department, Obama thanked "all the patriots ... who were forced to hang up their uniforms" because of the policy, which dates to early in the Clinton administration.

I wonder if any Catholic bishops were popping champagne corks. I’d like to think at least some of them joined the vast majority of lay Catholics who welcome the end of this onerous policy.

For whatever the bishops think about the theology of homosexuality, they are — on paper, at least — opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As they said in their pastoral letter, Always Our Children: “The teachings of the Church make it clear that the fundamental human rights of homosexual persons must be defended and that all of us must strive to eliminate any forms of injustice, oppression, or violence against them…"

The Bishops were not, however, in the forefront of efforts to repeal this legislation.

Still, they should cheer it. This historic vote ends discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the military, and it restores a sense of personal integrity and honesty for service members who are gay or lesbian. Now, soldiers can admit who they are without fear of recrimination. They can own their identity with friends and colleagues without fear of being drummed out of the service.

This is an historic vote for civil rights that Catholics and others should cheer.

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