and nobody's even paying attention to it.
We all know by now that the compromise allows the 10-month Pentagon study to go forward. And we know that it has no timeline - it leaves the eventual timing and implementation of policy repeal in the hands of Pentagon leadership. Those are bad things. But the third failing of the compromise is this:
The compromise legislation will include no requirement that the Pentagon implement a non-discrimination policy.
This is bad. This is really, really bad. I've been waiting for days for a more talented political blogger than myself to write something up about it. But it's not happening. Here's what the angriest gays I could find on the Internet are saying, in an angry article titled "Obama Deserves No Credit For DADT's Eventual Passage. None":
There will be no non-discrimination policy added to military code. While DADT will be repealed by Congress, it will not require the Pentagon to institute a policy that bans discrimination against gays and lesbians. Do you realize what this means? That even though soldiers will no longer be forced, under law, to stay in the closet, they can still be fired, or refused hiring, for being gay. This is atrocious.
That's not it! That's not the problem! Well, it is a problem, but it's a relatively minor element of a much bigger one. The big problem is this:
Without a non-discrimination policy in place, people can be treated in discriminatory ways.
In order to thoroughly grasp the magnitude of the above statement, it's necessary to appreciate the level of control the military has over servicemembers' day-to-day lives.
So imagine that you have a job that you're not allowed to quit. If you stop showing up to work, you can be arrested and prosecuted. You can be fired, but anything you can do to get fired is also illegal and can lead to you being arrested and prosecuted. And if anyone gets the impression that you're trying to get fired, you'll still be punished, but there's a good chance they'll decide not to fire you, just to piss you off.
Management sets your job, working hours, and location, with little or no input from you. You can be required to move across the country at the convenience of the company. You can be sent to a foreign country for months at a time on 48 hours' notice. You can be assigned to a different job - one that you're not trained for, that you hate, even one that you find morally reprehensible - at any time. If at any time you refuse to comply with your reassignment or relocation instructions, you can be arrested and prosecuted.
Every detail of your life at work can be controlled, at the discretion of pretty much anyone above you in management. Where and when you may go to the bathroom, where and when you may eat, what you must wear, how you must stand and talk and walk and write, all can be micromanaged if your supervisor wishes to go to that kind of trouble.
But that's not enough control. No, the company also decides where you live. You can live in company-provided housing, or you can live in private housing paid for by the company (yes, the benefits are quite nice. It's a rather socialist organization.) If you are legally married or have children who are legally your dependents, current company policy is that you are automatically qualified to live in private housing if you wish. But if you do not have a legal spouse or children, you may be required to apply to move out of company housing, and this application can be denied for any reason or no reason at all.
If you are required to remain in company housing, your experience of it can vary considerably, depending on where you work, your seniority, and how the housing assignments are made. You could be required to live in anything from a semiprivate dorm-style room with one roommate or suitemate to an open-bay bunkroom with 100 other people. You have no recourse to complain so long as management deems your accommodations to be "adequate" by their own internal standards.
In company housing, you have no right to privacy. Your belongings may be searched and inspected at any time for any reason or no reason at all, and you may be arrested and prosecuted for possessing items that the company has forbidden in their housing, even if these items are legal. Your life can be micromanaged to very nearly the same extent that it can at work. There may be a curfew, visiting hours, or limitations on the gender or age of visitors. In open-bay-style housing, it's likely that you're forbidden to have sex, even if you're brave enough to try. And again, you have no right to move out - you must request permission, which can be arbitrarily denied.
The company also decides where you may go during your "free" time. Limitations may be set on the distance you can travel (typically a few hundred miles from your place of work without written authorization), and in addition, specific locations may be deemed "off-limits." The list of off-limits locations typically includes areas with a large amount of drug use, but is also currently known to include gay bars and clubs. You have no right to free association when you work for this company. If you violate any of these rules, you may be arrested and prosecuted.
Now, imagine you're a gay employee of this company. Right now, you can't tell anyone you're gay under penalty of being fired. Many (though not most) people in management are hostile toward gays to one degree or another. But under current law, if anyone around you figures out that you're gay, they have exactly two options: (1) pretend they don't know you're gay, or (2) fire you. What that means is that there can be no official policy of differential treatment of gay people outside of firing them. There can't be any "gay bathrooms" or "gay housing." There can't be a policy of refusing gay employees' requests to move out into private housing, or of requiring them to live in open-bay housing while straight employees get semiprivate dorms. There can't be a curfew for the gays. There can't be segregated gay working locations, or different policies for assignments. There can't be any jobs in the company that are off-limits to gays. If it becomes known that you're gay, you have to be fired.
Now, Congress is considering changing the law to give the company option (3): Acknowledge that you're gay and let you keep working with no non-discrimination protections. By "let," of course, I really mean "require," because of the first thing I said: You can't quit this job. Not until your contract expires, anyway. You could still be fired, depending on the policies the company decides to put in place. But you can't quit. And you'll now be allowed to be officially discriminated against.
Does that sound like an improvement to you? Because to me, it sounds like a recipe for making things worse. Non-discrimination policies are an absolutely necessary component of integration efforts. Please contact your representatives and senators and try to make them understand: we can accept a compromise, but not one that leaves the door open for making things worse.