Close reading: Tony Perkins on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In a turn of events covered quietly by everyone but Fox News, Congress moved closer to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last week, and seems finally ready to allow openly gay Americans to serve in the military. I haven’t been to Chelsea lately, but I assume the streets are empty and everyone is in Kabul. While the rest of the country seems poised between ambivalence and total apathy, church people and soldiers—two groups that reveal a surprising overlap—continue to rail against repeal.* Not least of them is Tony Perkins, former Marine and President of the Family Research Council, who argues on CNN’s Belief Blog that “ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would undermine religious liberty.” If that sounds like a weird inversion to you, buckle up. Perkins’s argument is a horse desperately pushing a cart, relying on a series of tropes that would be baffling were they not so familiar. It’s a microcosm for the larger, logically bankrupt argument against allowing gay men and women a place in modern society, and it’s sufficiently typical—and infuriating—to merit a close reading.

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