On Tuesday, several the nation’s top military officials, including Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, spoke out in favor of ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Clinton-era policy that can get a lesbian or gay service person fired if their sexuality becomes known.

Mullen tweeted later: “Stand by what I said: Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity.”

Hoorah! But before we pat our leaders on the back for talking about integrity, can we just point out that the military is mostly a grand symbol in this debate.

For many the biggest problem with the US military is not how it treats its own, but how it treats outsiders it considers “other” –Iraqis or Pakistanis for example. It’s possible that unteaching machismo within could improve the institution’s respect for the human rights of all. But — I hate to mention it — eliminating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will not create full equality in the USA.

Workplaces around this country in a world of different professions and places are dangerous places for LGBT people. Willing and able workers they can be fired for who they are. The National Gay And Lesbian Task Force, which is about to hold its annual Creating Change conference in Texas this weekend, points out that it’s still legal in 29 states to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. In 38 states, people can be fired for being transgender — not fitting in to gender stereotypes.

Where’s our integrity as a nation that claims to be founded on the principles of Every Person Is Created Equal?

The President’s push to hold hearings on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a step up from not talking about it at all. But a year of hearings on the military, past present and future?

What we need is an inclusive employment non-discrimination act that applies to ALL jobs, and all people — not just the military — and we need it now.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.

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