In 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul finished a fight started more than 70 years earlier. They took the torch from people like Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony and righted a wrong. With the passing of the 19th Amendment, on Aug. 26, women in the United States of America were finally granted the right to vote, making the U.S. a world leader in women’s suffrage.
Psych! Just kidding. The U.S. was way late to this party.
Women over the age of the 30 were granted the right to vote in Great Britain in 1918, and they weren’t even the first in Europe to board the Suffrage Express. Finland (1906), Norway (1913), Denmark (1915) and Iceland (1915) all gave their women the right to vote before the United States. Do you know who else did? Russia. Yes, the soon-to-be USSR was ahead of the USA in suffrage, granting the right to vote in 1917, the same year as The Netherlands.
Other places where women could vote before the United States? Try Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg. Women got federal suffrage in Canada in 1918, after the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan had already allowed their women to vote.
So what does this have to do with gay soldiers? With the coming repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the United States joins at least 25 other countries in allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. Yes, 25. And these aren’t namby-pamby countries either. The list includes U.S. allies Britain, Israel, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
I’m gonna say it again, because it bears repeating: Israel allows openly gay service members. They relaxed a ban on gays in top secret positions in 1983 and, in the early 1990s none other than Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he saw “no reason to discriminate against homosexuals.”
Other countries that allow openly gay soldiers:Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay.
I guess the question, then, becomes, who doesn’t allow gays to serve openly? That list includes Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Turkey and Venezuela, among others.
Once again, the United States was way late to the party.
Study after study showed no major reason for concern when it came to gay men and women serving the United States in our esteemed military. The Pentagon study raised no red flags, nor did looks at openly gay soldiers in the allies I mentioned above, Britain, Israel, Canada, South Africa and Australia. The only red flags raised, in my eyes, were the stories of loyal, accomplished, U.S. soldiers who wanted to serve their country, but couldn’t. They lost that privilege because of who they love.
With mountains and mountains of evidence to overcome, it became sad to watch people like Arizona Senator John McCain – a man I nearly cast a Presidential ballot for – stick to their opposition. It was sad, too, that some of those people are the ones who want to lecture about freedom, and getting the government out of our lives.
Well here you go, folks. The government is out of the lives of those brave fighting men and women, and they can serve their country proudly without being forced to live a lie. I can assure you of this: Some day we’ll look back and wonder, just like with women’s suffrage, what took us so long?