Coming off his debate with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this weekend, Weld County Republican District Attorney Ken Buck is fighting blowback for his support of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the current military policy that requires gay service-members to not reveal their sexuality. Military leaders are presently studying how best to repeal the policy and on what kind of timeline. Bennet supports repeal, as do the majority of Coloradans. According to a Quinlan Rosner/American Viewpoint poll, 51 percent of likely Colorado voters support repeal of the program, whereas only 39 percent say the policy should not be repealed.
“At our core, Coloradans share basic values of fairness and decency. The majority of [us] disagree with Ken Buck and believe all of us — gay and straight — should have the same opportunity to… serve our country,” said Brad Clark, executive director of gay rights group One Colorado.
For some observers, Buck has given mixed signals on the issue of gay rights. As D.A., he filed hate crimes charges and won a conviction last year in the high-profile murder of transgender woman Angie Zapata. Buck’s role in the case sent up a red flag for conservatives, who see the hate crimes category as, in effect, giving minority groups privileged status under the law, the category being more a product of misguided progressive do-gooder sentiment than of unadorned Constitutional equal rights and protections.
Yet Buck, who has a son at West Point, was unequivocal in his opposition to repeal of DADT at the Colorado Springs debate.
I do not support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think it is a policy that makes a lot of sense. It’s not whether an individual is gay can serve in the military, the question is whether that individual can be openly gay in the military. It’s one thing to deny someone access to the military and to a career in the military, it’s another thing to — for morale purposes and other purposes — make sure that we are as homogeneous as possible in the military in moving towards the common goal of the security and the military action, as opposed to the distractions that are caused by allowing lifestyle choices to become part of the discussion.
Denver Democratic state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, one of few openly gay members of the Colorado legislature, railed against Buck’s position:
“Ken Buck has shown… disrespect for everyday Coloradans who want to serve their country. He wants to exclude thousands of qualified men and women from serving their country simply because of their sexual orientation. And with his call for a ‘homogeneous’ military, one questions whether Ken Buck’s agenda goes dangerously further.”
One Colorado board member Jessie Ulibarri argued that politics was shaping Buck’s view on the issue.
“Our GLBT service members put their lives on the line to protect our basic freedoms. Our soldiers deserve equal treatment under the law, not divisive election-year rhetoric that is reminiscent of the pre-Civil Rights era in our country.”
One Colorado has started a petition drive demanding that Ken Buck apologize for his comments. According to the vast majority of credible research, they point out, sexuality and gender identity is genetic and not a “lifestyle choice.”
In a release on the debate, the Buck campaign emphasized the candidate’s position on the economy and jobs.
“From the get-go, Buck gave a clear plan on getting Americans back to work, reining in Washington’s out of control spending and making Washington answer to the American people, not the special interests. While Michael Bennet said tax-cuts were the reason for our crises,” wrote Buck Press Secretary Owen Loftus.
“People just don’t have faith in the system,” Buck said. “Unfortunately, Bennet has been a rubberstamp of the failing system, voting 92 percent of the time with his party. I will be a different kind of senator—one who listens to the people of Colorado, not the special interests.”
The Buck campaign didn’t respond at evening post-time to messages asking for comment.
Colorado Senator Mark Udall has been a leader in the effort to repeal DADT and introduced legislation in March to that effect.
“More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade,” he said at the time. “These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”
Udall said government accountants had estimated that DADT has cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation and he argued that the process of identifying gay members and discharging them is costly and counterproductive.
“We train these men and women and prepare them for duty. It’s a major investment in time and energy and money.Then we spend all this time and energy and money discharging them.”