Although I applaud the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the subsequent return of the ROTC to Yale, I would be remiss if I failed to discuss the inequality that persists within the military.
The Army capitalizes two words that aren’t capitalized elsewhere in the English language. The first is Soldier. The second is Family. Spouses are afforded benefits such as housing, health care, identification cards, access to morale and welfare programs, and survivor benefits because the military knows that sacrifices of servicemembers also entail the sacrifices of their loved ones.
That is, if you’re straight. If you’re a lesbian like Luz Bautista , U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, the military can’t recognize your marriage or your family because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Bautista was stationed in San Diego with her spouse, also in the service, and they raised their six-year old son together there.
When Bautista received orders to relocate to Illinois, she knew that meant separating from her family; the military only accommodates heterosexual spouses and families together. Her partner was required to remain in San Diego with their son. Lack of federal marriage recognition meant the military had the right to separate Bautista’s family and deny them all other benefits, even after DADT’s repeal. I forgot to mention, Bautista was pregnant with her family’s second child. As the say in the Army, “that’s all jacked-up.”
If you’re gay, benefits aren’t for you or your family. They’re only for capital-F, heterosexual Families.
With this sentiment in mind, I understand why students at Yale — and especially the queer community — disagree with the return of the ROTC to campus. But let us also recognize that DOMA, not the military per se, is setting the conditions for continued discrimination in military. As such, the larger LGBT community can actually take advantage of injustices, drawing upon them as examples of how DOMA harms military personnel. The image of a same-sex spouse being handed the flag draped over his or her deceased partner’s casket is going to shake the world. It has the potential to reshape the entire political debate surrounding same-sex marriage
The military can still be used as a vehicle for change by the LGBT community, but let us also consider the impact of ROTC on transforming the military internally. The armed services are not inherently political; the leadership, however, is subject to personal and political biases, which are eventually reflected throughout the institution. By contributing to the pool of military leadership, Yale students can take their liberal education and life perspectives into the ranks and fundamentally alter the military’s policies, practices and operations.
For example, I was approached by a queer group on campus last year to discourage the administration from allowing the return of the ROTC to Yale because of continued transgender exclusion. I politely declined the request, saying that I supported the reinstatement. Although I urge the administration to issue a statement condemning the reinstatement of a program that violates Yale’s anti-discrimination policies, the program’s presence on Yale campus can eventually be used to aid transgender people in their march toward inclusion in the military.
To be frank, the military will always have the means to reach its recruitment goals. Ivy League boycotts are purely symbolic because the military doesn’t actually need extra junior officers. Boycotting ROTC would be a lost opportunity for liberalizing the military and improving its policies from within. Assuming that the military is a permanent fixture in American society, would we rather reject it altogether or make incremental progress towards improving it? Obviously, I vote for the latter.
Whether you’re a proponent of the ROTC or oppose it on social grounds, the answer is, paradoxically, the same. The return of the ROTC to Yale is going to fundamentally alter the military and society for the better.