Student volunteers from President Barack Obama’s Organizing for America, along with Lambda Alliance and Young Democrats members, wrung out T-shirts spotted with tie-dye colors in the Crim Dell Meadow Tuesday to celebrate the end of the controversial military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Homosexual members of the United States military no longer have to choose between serving in the armed forces and being open about their sexual orientation. The repeal of the policy, which Obama signed in December, officially went into effect Tuesday.
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs nationwide are no longer permitted to consider sexual orientation as a factor in admissions decisions.
“Since this is a celebration of the achievement of a major policy goal, we chose to do something light-hearted,” OFA Fall Fellow Isabelle Cohen ’11 said. “We hoped that by providing T-shirts, dye and information to students, we’d be able to reach a wider base than just those already interested in politics and help them be more aware of the repeal of DADT.”
Dozens of students stopped by the table each hour. One football player was briefed on the purpose of the celebration as his T-shirt was being tied with rubber bands. Volunteers discussed the significance of the repeal and passed out information cards so participants could be contacted about future Williamsburg area OFA events.
Cohen believed the event proved successful as an opportunity to educate other students about current political issues.
“The end of DADT represents an incredible achievement for President Obama and the U.S.,” Cohen said. “Fundamentally, the repeal of DADT is about fairness; it says that gay and lesbian servicemen can serve their country openly, without being forced to hide a huge part of their identities and lives. It says that those who stand up and fight for this country on the front lines no longer have to hide who they love.”
Cohen also addressed the boon the repeal would provide to the military numbers and skills.
“Those service members discharged under DADT will now be allowed to go back to proudly serving their country, meaning our military can recapture some of the talent lost by this policy,” she said.
Robin Crigler ’14 said she believed the U.S. must further change its policies before people should celebrate.
“It’s a positive step for this country, though not particularly important by itself,” he said. “Hopefully this will help make our society more honest.”
Some students who consider themselves politically conservative viewed the repeal as a positive development.
“I believe that DADT was unfair to LGBT military members and the wrong policy for our national security, so I am pleased that it has been repealed,” Spencer Chretien ’14 stated.
However, Chretien was wary of the strong political party alignment attached to the repeal.
“It is important to note that repeal was made possible by Republican votes in Congress,” he said. “The activist left should stop playing politics with this issue and instead focus on the well-being of our brave soldiers, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
The College Republicans reacted similarly.
“Republicans now acknowledge, especially those within college demographics, that being gay is only a small part of a person and is not the entirety of the definition of that individual … and as Americans, we all have a dedication to our country and should be able to serve and protect it if we choose,” the College Republicans said in a statement.