The righteous are wailing like zombies from sea to shining sea over the recent federal court decisions striking down the cockamamie "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law that allows homosexuals to join the military but forbids them from being homosexuals. An exemplar of this sanctimonious outrage is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian advocacy group. According to his official biography, "Tony has a tremendous burden to reclaim the culture for Christ."
Tony is also a former member of the Louisiana legislature and he’s also a former Marine. He has been affiliated as well with the National Rifle Association, The American Legion and the Christian Coalition. He’s been associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a leading white supremacy group, and in 1996 he was the campaign manager of a right-wing Louisiana politician who paid Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Dukes $82,500 for his mailing list. Tony is elbow-deep in the Council for National Policy, a secretive Republican political forum with a membership that includes religious-right luminaries like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and (heh) Sarah Palin. Tony, apparently a Palin admirer, calls the Tea Party a "civil awakening."
To clarify, the Tony Perkins we’re talking about is not the same Tony Perkins who starred in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. The Tony Perkins we’re talking about is, however, mad as a herd of homeless hornets about the rulings by Federal District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips that allow "open" homosexuals to serve in the military — but he’s angry in a caring, redemptive sort of way. In an October 11 Washington Post piece, Perkins wrote "The most important thing that Christians can offer to homosexuals is hope — hope that their sins, just like the sins of anyone else, can be forgiven and their lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ." Once homosexuals have been transformed, they have Tony’s blessing to die for their country in self-defeating wars, one supposes.
Like so many Americans of his socio-political persuasion, Tony doesn’t let reality intrude on his opinions or clutter his arguments. Tony told the New York Times that an unspecified number of "Americans are upset" because the Phillips decisions reflect the skullduggery of "activist judges and arrogant politicians" who don’t heed "the Constitution’s limits on what the courts and Congress can and cannot do."
In a September 9 ruling, Judge Phillips declared don’t-ask-don’t-tell unconstitutional based on its violation of the rights to freedom of speech and due process, both of which are guaranteed by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Article III of the Constitution vests "The judicial power of the United States" over "all cases" arising under the Constitution in the federal courts, like the federal court where Judge Phillips does her judge stuff. So when federal judges, activist or otherwise, make rulings on whether a law is constitutional or unconstitutional, they’re doing it because the Constitution says that’s their job.
Like so many of his pious peers, Tony delights in parroting the phrase ""There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces" from the text of Don’t Ask. Just because the Constitution doesn’t mention a specific right doesn’t mean that right doesn’t exist. As Amendment IX assures us, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The Constitution doesn’t specifically allow heterosexuals the right to serve in the armed forces, for example. For that matter, it doesn’t grant heterosexuals the right to marry one another either.
Plus, when exactly did serving in the armed services become a "right?" When I was a kid and people were being drafted to fight in a stupid war in Asia, uniformed service was an obligation that an awful lot of people, most notably the people who started the stupid wars we’re fighting in Asia now, managed to wiggle their ways out of. Involuntary service was an obligation, and I don’t recall the Tony Perkins types of the day saying that heterosexuals were obligated to serve but homosexuals weren’t. In fact, I remember quite a few upperclassmen from my high school trying to duck the draft by pretending they were gay, and it didn’t work.
Don’t Ask is doggerel from top to bottom, and as Judge Phillips has wisely ruled, it’s an unconstitutional law. Nonetheless, Congress had every right to pass it because Article I of the Constitution tasks the legislature to "make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces." That same clause makes it equally constitutional for Congress to repeal Don’t Ask whether doing so bends Tony’s nose out of joint or not.
Tony says getting rid of Don’t Ask defies "the convictions of most Americans." Tony must have been tied up in a phone conference with God and St. Peter and several archangels in November 2008 when most Americans voted for a presidential candidate who made repeal of Don’t Ask a key plank of his platform.
Tony says there is "strong opposition" to scrubbing Don’t Ask from military leaders. I guess Tony missed it back in February when defense secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen — the military’s top two leaders — told the Senate Armed Services Committee that repealing Don’t Ask was "the right thing to do." They must not have covered those hearings on FOX News or CBN.
Tony accuses Judge Phillips of "playing politics with our national defense." Tony is, not surprisingly, unaware that history’s fiercest fighting men have had a thing for other fighting men. As the warrior king of Macedon Phillip II (382 – 336 BCE) told Plutarch, "It is not only the most warlike peoples, the Boeotians, Spartans, and Cretans, who are the most susceptible to this kind of love but also the greatest heroes of old: Meleager, Achilles, Aristomenes, Cimon, and Epaminondas." Alexander the Great, the most victorious general of all time, was queer as a pink dollar bill.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Alexander we have the presumably heterosexual David Petraeus. King David manufactured a reputation for himself as a military genius by arming Sunni "Awakening Councils" and bribing them into forming a "grass roots" anti-al Qaeda movement. Now we’ve broken all our impossible-to-keep promises to the Awakening dudes, everyone’s acting surprised as a birthday girl that they’ve turned against us and joined the rebels. Jesus in a little black dress, Richard Simmons could have seen that one coming. Petraeus is now pulling the same shenanigan in the Bananastans and Tony Perkins is worried that our national defense will suffer irreparable harmed when a few green berets confess they’re a little light in the jump boots. Where do we find such homophobes?
Fellow citizens, the state of our national security system teems with weighty concerns that demand your earnest consideration. The demise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not one of those concerns.
And when Tony Perkins makes a last ditch appeal to your sense of "traditional values," take another look at the roster of hooligans he hobnobs with and remember that the values he’s talking about are steeped in a tradition that involves burning crosses and poplar trees.