Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Methodist Church

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Barack Obama signs Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal legislation Dec. 20, 2010. The repeal went into effect Sept. 20, 2011.. (photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

I was going to leave the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell alone.

The media said everything was kosher since all the LGB folk can serve in the U.S. military openly (Ts still aren’t allowed and Qs might be debatable) and I was tempted to let Sept. 20 pass without so much as a whisper around here since it don’t really fit with my blog premise.

But then I saw this post from Truth in Progress about what the United Methodist Church can learn from the repeal of DADT. The author’s overarching point is this:

We too, if we have the will to rescind our UMC practice of “DADT”, will discover that for 40 years we have been in denial about how significantly God has used the lay and clergy United Methodists who are gay and lesbian, and we have been wrong!

I’m glad the author wrote this, but I think both he and the military are missing a crucial part of the repeal process.

Nowhere in the article does the author, or has the military over the last year, made any effort to undo any of the harm done to those who served under the policy.

After spending six years in the Air Force (three on active duty and three as an ROTC cadet at Miami University in Ohio), I “outed” myself to my commander in April 2008 because I no longer felt I could serve in silence. With a signature and some minor paperwork, I was given an honorable discharge and got stuck with $36,000 in school “scholarship money” that had now been converted to loans (currently the bill is $38,000+ since it keeps accruing interest faster than I can make payments).

Two years and five months later DADT repeal went into effect. While the media and the military and the groups who worked to overturn the law celebrated (and continue to celebrate), those of us affected by the policy while it was in place are left in the cold.

The military made it clear that it wasn’t interested in retroactive fixes…but they also haven’t made anyone available to veterans who were discharged under the policy in case we need to talk and ask “what now?”.

Presumably the answer is nothing, but I don’t know.

Currently I owe money, but there are good soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines who would like to reenter the service and can’t because their previous job isn’t available, or they’re now too old to qualify, or a million other reasons.

And the military doesn’t seem to care.

To circle back around, I think the Methodist Church can learn from the military.

But I think the UMC needs to go one step further and have a plan in place to help those affected by the bans feel they can come back.

It hurts to be excluded, and unless the church makes it clear that they want those who felt excluded to return and reaches out a hand to them, those folks may just stay gone.

It’s not enough to move forward, the UMC has got to be willing to look behind and take care of the previously excluded folks too.

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