How out of touch are some members of Congress?
It is almost laughable – if it wasn’t for the disbelief and the anger – to hear Rep. Ike Skelton explain his flimsy opposition to lifting the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy.
“What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?” Skelton rhetorically asked reporters this week during a media breakfast.
Are 7-year-olds making federal policy these days? Do parents discuss sexuality issues with 7-year-olds these days? Does Skelton consult with his 7-year-old constituents from Missouri on every issue facing Congress?
It makes no sense. It smacks of blatant homophobia.
Skelton is a conservative Democrat from the Ozark region of Missouri who just happens to be one powerful lawmaker, sitting as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Yep, that same panel that has been debating military policy.
Isaac Newton Skelton IV was born Dec. 20, 1931. That makes him 78. While he is a graduate of the Wentworth Military Academy, he was too young to serve during World War II, and did not serve during the Korean and Vietnam wars. So it seems that Skelton is an unlikely expert on what it is like to serve in the modern military, yet here he is the most powerful politician who has been steadfastly against lifting the DADT policy and a staunch opponent of gay rights in general.
Skelton has been in office since 1977, so he is in his 33rd year in Congress. Has he left the Beltway to see the real America? Has he, during his long lifetime, reached out to meet gay people? Has he ever knowingly met a gay person? Or does he live in a self-imposed closet of denial and ignorance that gay people really do exist and pay taxes and already serve their country in the military?
The laughable comment he made to reporters this week indicates that he is part of an older generation that remains uncomfortable with LGBT people because of their lack of interaction with gays and lesbians.
Gay rights advocates this week have widely condemned Skelton’s ignorance, and they should.
Look at recent studies that show that Americans are increasingly comfortable being around gay people and, for the first time, are showing that a majority of people are more accepting of gays.
It is clear that many older lawmakers – and that is the majority of Congress, and especially the Senate – are far out of tune with most Americans on the issue of gay rights. The same can be said of the judicial branch, include the U.S. Supreme Court.
One thing is certain. As the older generation fades away, so too will the obstacles that keep the LGBT community as second-class citizens and prevent gays and lesbians from having equal rights.
Rep. Skelton, your line of thinking is so 20th century.