Dec 21, 2010

More about the pre-history of DADT

The New York Times op-ed page has been history-happy for the past few days, publishing 3 op-eds in 3 days by U.S. history professors. Today's comes from George Chauncey, the brilliant author of Gay New York, one of the very best LGBT histories out there. Chauncey describes in some detail what happened to gay World War II veterans and federal government employees during the post-war years, concluding:

"The persistence of the military exclusion continued to send a powerful message that gay people were not full members of the nation — not least because, historically, military service has been an important sign and condition of full citizenship.

Ending 'don’t ask, don’t tell' not only honors the thousands of lesbians and gay men now in the service, it honors the memory of the veterans who insisted, 65 years ago, that they deserved to share in the freedom they had waged a war to defend."

Read the whole thing here.

Chauncey, incidentally, has also been a major contributor to several of the gay marriage legal battles, most recently testifying in the federal Prop 8 trial in California last January. He has frequently used his knowledge of queer history to advance today's political struggles - a real mensch, and a great example of the power of history to make change in today's world. 

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