Remembering Allan Berube, historian of gays in the military

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I currently have a live feed of the Senate Committee Hearing on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell open in another window on what would have been Allan Bérubé’s 64th birthday. Despite wide support of DADT’s repeal by President Obama and other high-ranking officials, Senator McCain and other Republican leaders are challenging any change in the policy before the year’s end, expressing doubts about the extensive studies that suggest a minority of servicemembers predict any negative consequences might arise as a result of the repeal.

Bérubé, a historian and author of Coming Out under Fire: the History of Gay Men and Women in World War II and the forthcoming My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History, passed away in 2007. In Coming Out, Bérubé addresses many issues and challenges that gay servicemen and women still face. In the 20th Anniversary Edition, John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman discuss the timeliness of a reflection on gay culture and issues in the military. An excerpt:

Even as we write this foreword in the spring of 2010, the military exclusion policy that first took formal shape during World War II is once again under scrutiny. In October 2009, hundreds of thousand marched on Washington for “full equality” for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people. Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was an important plank in the marchers’ agenda and just three months later was included in President Obama’s first State of the Union address. Today the Obama administration is examining the policy, receiving outspoken and unexpected support from military officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony before Congress. Although Allan Bérubé died in 2007, the pioneering research he presented in Coming Out Under Fire will no doubt continue to shed much-needed historical light on the contemporary debate over lesbians and gay men in the military.

As for the military’s top brass: at the moment, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead support repeal of DADT. Chiefs of the Marines, Army, and Air Force are opposed to repeal.

We’ll be following closely as hearings continue. For today, we remember Allan Bérubé and share his important work with you. Pass it on.

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