Barack Obama offered some sincere remarks on Saturday during his weekly presidential address, as he remembered the thirteen lives lost at the hands of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. And while it’s clear Obama was working to smooth relations between Muslims, soldiers, and America at large (Hasan was Muslim), his comments about the diversity inside our military was notable for what it didn’t include.
Picking up on the terrible brewing trend that has some folks — like Fox News pundits — suggesting America’s military ranks need to be “screened” of Muslims, Obama said American soldiers “are Americans of every race, faith and station. They are Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers. They are descendants of immigrants, and immigrants themselves. They reflect the diversity that makes this America. But what they share is a patriotism like no other. What they share is a commitment to country that has been tested and proved worthy. What they share is the same unflinching courage, unblinking compassion and uncommon camaraderie that the soldiers and civilians of Fort Hood showed America and showed the world.”
Not in there? Any mention of LGBTs.
Now, it’s not clear whether any of Hasan’s victims were queer. And so we can already hear the backlash: This wasn’t about gay soldiers, so why should Obama mention them?
Because in a conversation about diversity in the military, and about certain demographics that serve this country proudly despite unprovoked wanton hatred sent their way, and spoken from the mouth of a man who has repeatedly committed to letting men and women of all backgrounds serve openly, LGBT soldiers are worthy of the same calls of acceptance from the commander-in-chief as any other group.
Must Obama mention LGBT soldiers at every turn? No. But until he ends a law that forbids us from serving openly in the military — as Muslims, naturally, are free to do — he must continue to recognize the sacrifices queer Americans make to keep this country safe.
That’s possibly because August Provost’s murder didn’t receive the same media attention (only one dead at the hands of a fellow soldier, not 13). Or possibly because it’s just easier to ignore gay servicemembers when they cannot speak up themselves.
Obama’s calls for caution and tolerance strike the right tone. But they make all the more evident that gays in the military are still second-class.