Today shall not pass on this blog without noting the change in the law that now allows gay people to service openly in the military in the USA. The so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule that has now been consigned to history was an emblematic piece of hypocrisy. The idea was that it was OK to happen to be gay in the US military, but it wasn’t OK to be honest and open about that. It was an uncomfortable half-way house on the road to acceptance. On the one hand the policy prevented the military authorities from harassing closeted gay military personnel but on the other it meant that people faced direct discrimination if they did disclose their sexuality.
Over 13000 people were discharged from the US military because they were either caught out or chose to be open. That is a lot of people’s lives messed up, a lot of money spent on training people who were then deemed unsuitable and a lot of grief all round.
All over now. Cause indeed for rejoicing.
So why is it significant for me to mark on this blog?
Well, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is similar (though not identical) to the situation for many gay clergy. To be blunt, you get rewarded for staying in the closet. Come out and you don’t know what will happen to you. Come out and you could be removed from your post by your bishop. Or the next bishop who comes along. Or the Vestry might make life impossible because there are no established guidelines to stop them. Come out about your relationship and you don’t know where you are in the morass of ethics and values regarding who you can live with and what are the rules.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell comes very close to the attitude that the Anglican Churches have in the UK towards gay people becoming bishops. It doesn’t affect that many people directly, but it sends out a ghastly message indirectly to the many. Moderate Christians supportive of gay clergy think that policy stinks. Those in the church most opposed to gay clergy think it stinks. Friends in the USA and Canada, punished collectively in their churches because they affirmed one ministry or another connected to people who happen to be gay, think it stinks. The angry leaders of African provinces looking back at Britain think it stinks.
We can’t just blame Rowan William’s depressing tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury. That is too easy. Notwithstanding that though, I’d say that the closeted straight supporters of gay clergy have a particular role to play in finding a way out of the mire.
Ask! Tell! Whoever you are.