Shortly after 9/11, John McCain traveled to Berkeley to eulogize Mark Bingham, the gay public relations executive and rugby champion who was one of the passengers believed to have stormed the cockpit on United Flight 93, foiling the hijackers' apparent plan to fly the plane into the U.S. Capitol.
Instead, it crashed in Pennsylvania, killing all on board. At Bingham's memorial service, a tearful McCain acknowledged: "I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph."
Fortunately for McCain, Mark's fellow passengers didn't have to be surveyed first to see if they felt squeamish about fighting terrorists alongside a gay man. But for McCain and other Republican opponents of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," completion of a Pentagon survey was the first hurdle they threw at gay service members eager to fight for their country openly and with honor.
When that survey, described as the most comprehensive military review ever on any personnel-related matter, showed that 70 percent of service members viewed repeal as having a positive or no effect on the force, McCain began raising a new set of roadblocks for repeal advocates, ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the down state of the economy to, next, I suppose, the Mondo-Gretchen travesty of Project Runway.
Meanwhile, at last count, more than 25 countries let gays and lesbians serve openly in their militaries, including Israel's combat-tested forces and nearly every NATO nation except Turkey and the U.S. Evidence shows that in Britain, Canada and our other closest allies, allowing gays to serve openly has contributed to improving the command climate, decreasing harassment and retaining critical personnel. But none of that seems to matter to Republican obstructionists.