UPDATE: Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of the defense authorization bill containing a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote to end the filibuster was 56 in favor and 43 against.
Which means the side with 56 votes loses.
(Harry Reid was one of those voting against, which allowed him to move for later reconsideration.)
Jonathan Hopkins graduated fourth in his West Point class, served three combat tours, was awarded three Bronze Stars (including one for valor), served as a platoon leader in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and commanded a Stryker infantry company.
Last month he was forced to leave the Army after others reported that he was gay. But the Army took its sweet time in ousting him, allowing him to serve an additional 14 months before making his expulsion official.
“Four months after being found out,” he recalls, “and 10 months prior to leaving the Army, I found myself with a boyfriend for the first time in my life, because I was no longer scared to have such a relationship. He and I attended social events and dinners with my peers. I talked about him at work. My life became one of full disclosure.
Amid all of that, the unit continued to function and I continued to be respected for the work I did. Many, from both companies I commanded, approached me to say that they didn’t care if I was gay — they thought I was one of the best commanders they’d ever had. And unbeknownst to me, many had guessed I was probably gay all along. Most didn’t care about my sexuality. I was accepted by most of them, as was my boyfriend, and I had never been happier in the military. Nothing collapsed, no one stopped talking to me, the Earth spun on its axis, and the unit prepared to fight another day.”
Lt. Col. John Nagl, now retired, also fought in Iraq. Working with Gen. David Petraeus, Nagl helped lead the drafting of the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine, which many credit with whatever level of success we’ve managed to achieve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Jonathan is the third combat veteran I personally know who has left the Army under the terms of DADT,” Nagl says. “Collectively, they represent almost a decade of combat experience, a big handful of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, service as aide-de-camps to general officers and as platoon leaders and company commanders in combat, and the investment of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. They have offered blood, sweat, and tears in defense of a nation that discriminates against them for no good reason.
“This policy must end.”
In less than two hours, the U.S. Senate is expected to try to break a filibuster on a defense policy bill. The bill contains provisions that would end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that forced Hopkins and others to leave the military against their will. The vote is expected to be close, and at this point the filibuster seems likely to stand.
That would be a shame. The policy is going to change, if not now then certainly within a few years. In a poll taken in May by CNN, 78 percent said they support allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the military. The question, then, is how many more careers will be ruined between now and the inevitable repeal of this archaic policy.
How many more Jonathan Hopkins will be denied the right to serve and defend the country that they love?