Dan Choi, high-profile activist against Don't Ask, Don't Tell, walked into a Times Square Army recruitment office asking to return. Another activist described the reaction to the decision on his base as a "giant shoulder shrug of ‘so what?' "
In case you're just tuning in now, gays and lesbians can now be open about their sexual orientation, if they choose to do so, without penalty of discharge, as long as a federal judge's injunction against Don't Ask Don't Tell holds. Because this could change if the Department of Justice wins its appeal, it most immediately benefits those who have already come out of the closet; those who have not are being encouraged by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to hold off until the change is permanent.
Choi, who made his move surrounded by cameras, was told by recruiters that he would be processed. He may or may not get his rank back. A West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic, Choi famously came out on The Rachel Maddow Show and was subsequently discharged. 59 Arabic linguists have been discharged since 2004. Because, you know, we didn't really need them anyway.
This respite from the discriminatory policy, however temporary, allows us to see what would really happen if gays were allowed to openly serve. Surely it would turn the world upside-down!
But the director of the Log Cabin Republicans, who is in the Army Reserve, told The New York Times that troops were nonchalant about the whole thing:
Mr. Cooper, a member of the Army Reserve, said that he was taking part in training last week at Fort Huachuca in Arizona when the injunction was issued, and that he was surprised by the lack of visible opposition or outcry...Most of the people he was with, he added, were younger members of the service, and "a few people actually thought repeal had already occurred."
But the commandant of the Marine Corp had a very different take on how heterosexual servicemembers would handle the change:
Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, has said most Marines oppose reversing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy....
"My observation when we survey our Marines is that you're as likely to have Pfc's and lance corporals shoot their hand in the air when you ask the question about unit cohesion or good order and discipline (suffering) as you are the crusty old master sergeant," Conway said. He said opposition to gays serving openly is particularly strong within combat units.
In other words, he says, young marines are no less homophobic than their older counterparts, at least when asked leading questions about "good order and discipline." Should that be the case, the burden is not on the gay servicemembers to make them comfortable. The burden is on the leadership to vigorously impose standards of respect and non-discrimination. Too much to ask?