A Mixed Day for Basic Human Decency

By Sean Carroll | December 18, 2010 2:36 pm

Nothing focuses the mind of an elected representative like the prospect of their vacations being cut short, and Congress has been busy in the days leading up to the Christmas holiday. The big news today:

  • “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is being repealed. DADT was the ugly political compromise that allowed gay and lesbian soldiers to serve in the military, as long as they stayed in the closet. It was opposed by the military, most Americans, and even most members of Congress. Repeal was only difficult because of the bizarre filibuster rule that allows 40% of the U.S. Senate to gang together to block legislation they oppose on the basis of fundamental principles, such as the principle that homosexuals should be discriminated against. Oh, and the energetic opposition of Crazy John McCain, who was a longtime opponent of DADT until he decided it was politically expedient to switch sides. (“There will be high-fives all over the liberal bastions of America,” he said, taking the nonpartisan high road.) The legislative strategy for repeal is a hard-won victory for Obama, who could have overturned the policy by executive order, but argued that passing a law would yield a much more solid and lasting result.
  • The DREAM Act has failed. Again, not because it couldn’t get a majority, but because it couldn’t muster the votes to overcome a filibuster. (A handful of Democrats joined with the Republicans on this one.) In this case, the principled objection was to a bill that allowed non-citizens who were brought to this country illegally as children (when they were younger than 16) to attain citizenship if they graduated from high school and either completely two years of college or joined the military. Obviously we wouldn’t want people like that in our country.

Sorry to be snarky, truly. I much prefer having polite discussions about honest disagreements. But these aren’t examples of that; opposition to these measures arises from combinations of craven political posturing and straightforward bigotry. Nothing principled about it; just politicians preying on people’s fears. And I honestly believe that we have a more healthy political dialogue by admitting that outright, rather than pretending that opposition to bills like this is in any way honorable.

DADT repeal is a big deal. Congratulations to all the servicemen and -women who no longer have to live a lie (at least not because of official government policy; informal discrimination is harder to eradicate). High fives all over!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Rights, Politics
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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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