LGBT Rights vs Due Process Rights?

Richard Socarides, a former White House adviser to Bill Clinton on LGBT rights issues, recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal attacking Obama for not doing more to end the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. A valid complaint, but he loses me with this point:

Many wonder when their president will show the same kind of concern for the constitutional rights of gay American service members as he has for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. Many wonder what the administration's willingness to treat gay Americans as second-class citizens says to Uganda and other countries that are considering laws that would subject gays to imprisonment and even death.

This is a despicable formulation, for several reasons. First, it assumes that all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are guilty -- given both the number of people we've imprisoned there and the extremely low recidivism rate compared to American prisons, the opposite appears to be true. Socarides is unconcerned with the guilt or innocence of the detainees in question. He has decided unilaterally that the U.S. is justified in depriving them of their rights regardless, or at least more justified than denying the rights of LGBT servicemen to serve openly. Last I checked, there were no LGBT servicemembers being imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. This isn't apples and oranges, this is apples and internal combustion engines.

I'm not going to pretend I know how it feels to have my rights violated by this policy, and I too am dissatisfied with the administration's foot-dragging on this issue. But this line of thought is deeply anti-progressive in that it assumes some people have more rights than others, based on superficial judgments about who is a "good person" and who isn't.

And one last thing -- it's also worth mentioning that Socarides didn't feel that Clinton was too oversensitive "to a dwindling minority of bigots" for him to take a job working for him in 1997, several years after DADT was implemented.

-- A. Serwer

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