Dear Meghan McCain,
Hope this letter finds you well. Like me, perhaps you were up late last night watching as both the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee moved forward repeal language that will take us one step closer to ending the military’s discriminatory ban on openly gay and lesbian troops, otherwise known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Given that you’re a fervent supporter of LGBT rights, and one of a new wave of Republicans who continue to urge your Party’s leadership to welcome LGBT people, I’ve no doubt that you’re as enthusiastic as I am about the hope that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” might soon become a policy of the past.
I’ve long admired your work to coach the Republican Party on LGBT issues, like when you challenged young Republicans at George Washington University to support marriage equality, or when you told the world that “Gays and lesbians are a vital part of our communities. They are doctors, teachers, firefighters, emergency personnel and neighbors. In this way, marriage equality is also about supporting good citizens and strengthening our communities.”
One might also say that gays and lesbians are also soldiers. But unfortunately, until “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is completely repealed, these brave men and women will be living in the closet, unable to be who they are due to the threat of being discharged from the military.
It’s on this note that I’m writing to you today. See, your father, Sen. John McCain, has taken a very strong stand against ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers the right to serve their country. Sen. McCain very publicly opposed the repeal language that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee last night, and has pledged to fight as hard as he possibly can to maintain the U.S. military’s ban on gay and lesbian troops.
In his own words, your father said he “would do everything within his power” to make sure that gay and lesbian soldiers continue to be fired from military service, or prevented from joining the military in the first place. He’s pledged to filibuster the upcoming defense spending bill, the bill which will include the repeal language surrounding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and is going to encourage his fellow Senators to support a filibuster of this bill as well.
It’s on this note that I have one simple request, Meghan: please talk to your father, and tell him to stop.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has claimed the careers of nearly 14,000 American soldiers. These are women and men who have put their lives on the line to defend this country, only to be treated like second class citizens by the U.S. These are soldiers like former Army Sgt. Tracey Cooper-Harris, whose very own colleagues threatened to disclose her sexual orientation to commanders if she didn’t agree to perform sexual favors for them. Or servicemembers like former Air Force SSgt. David Hall, who lost out on his chance to be a pilot (despite exemplary evaluations from his supervisors) because he was gay. Or even students like Sara Isaacson, an ROTC cadet at the University of North Carolina, who after four years of proudly serving in ROTC, was told that she would have to repay back $80,000 in scholarship money because ROTC could not support an openly lesbian student.
Now imagine more than 13,500 other stories, just like these.
When your father says that he’s going to do everything in his power to support discrimination in the U.S. military, it’s these people who he’s fighting. These people, and the countless thousands of other soldiers living in the closet, or the thousands of potential recruits that would sign up in a heartbeat to defend their country, if only they could without suffering the psychological and emotional damage of having to live in the closet.
I know you’re not your father, and I also know that Sen. McCain has made it clear that while you might support various planks in the fight for LGBT equality, he does not. Still, I urge you, please talk to your father. Call on him to recognize, much like almost 80 percent of the country already recognizes, that allowing openly gay servicemembers to defend their country is not a threat. In fact, it only makes our country safer, stronger, and more respected around the world.
So whether it’s through a Tweet, a conversation over Sunday brunch, an article at The Daily Beast, or just a text message you shoot him over this Memorial Day weekend, please let your father know that when he says he’ll do everything in his power to keep “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in place, he’s sending the message that gays and lesbians deserve to be treated like second class citizens, and deserve to be fired just for being honest about who they are.
Thanks for your time. Oh, and give your mom a happy belated birthday wish, too. And tell her we dig the new haircut, too.
Photo credit: Michelle Rattinger/Assistant Photo Editor (GW Hatchet)