In a historic victory for the LGBTQ community, the U.S. Senate finally reversed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 18-year-old policy barring openly gay individuals from serving in the military, in a dramatic 65-31 vote on Dec. 18, 2010.

The bill was remarkable for several reasons beyond the huge implications for closeted gays and lesbians currently serving in the military. First, the path to passage proved incredibly bumpy — DADT repeal had already been declared dead several times in 2010 and finally barely squeaked through during the waning days of the 111th Congress’ lame-duck session. Furthermore, the major players during the debate were shocking for followers of American politics. The McCain family showcased a divided home as Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) served as DADT’s chief supporter while his wife and daughter publicly spoke out against the policy, eliminating any doubt that the once-proud Arizona maverick has been completely shell shocked by attacks from the right flank of his party. The supporters of the standalone bill were no less bizarre: One of Obama’s chief campaign promises was now ushered into the Senate by Republican Susan Collins (Maine) and Independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.), a figure spoken of with considerable vitriol in most Democratic circles.

The most remarkable part of the process, however, was the end tally: 57 Democrats and eight Republicans supported the repeal, a relatively bipartisan coalition judging by today’s pitiful standards. Although it is a shame that there is cause for celebration when eight out of 42 Republicans vote to repeal an outdated policy, a monumental victory still remains.

While support from certain moderates like Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is not a huge surprise, it is conservative Republican Richard Burr’s (N.C.) vote that portends the inevitable acceptance of homosexuality in America. The reliably right-wing politician — he is the ninth-most conservative senator currently serving, according to National Journal — explained his vote for repeal to reporters, saying, “Given the generational transition that has taken place in our nation, I feel that this policy is outdated and repeal is inevitable.”

If elimination of DADT was inevitable in 2010, the same “generational shift” that Burr refers to could indicate that passage of a gay marriage bill is not too far off. Tolerance of homosexuality is becoming the norm as our generation begins to inherit political power.

Doors open on Feb. 3 at the 23rd annual National Conference on Creating Change, the largest LGBTQ leadership conference in the world. Although the conference will be held in frigid Minnesota this year, the mood will nonetheless be jubilant. Supporters of LGBTQ rights are correct to rejoice: A huge and improbable victory was won in 2010. But seen in context, it is understood — at least by those attending the conference — that the repeal of DADT is not just a monumental event in and of itself. Instead, it represents just one in a series of battles large and small, past and present. It is a link in the chain that began July 4, 1965, with the first-ever public demonstration of gay activists in front of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, and will end with the passage of full civil rights for gay couples. Whether marriage equality comes to pass in 2012 or in 2020, I can assure you: It will come to pass.

In a few weeks, four Georgetown students, myself included, depart for Creating Change. We leave to learn all we can about LGBTQ leadership in order to bring these skills back to campus and widen the dialogue about gay life here at Georgetown. The fact that we are being sponsored by this Jesuit institution, which as recently as 2008 didn’t even have an LGBTQ Resource Center, is testimony enough to the speed of change that has occurred lately for gay issues in America.

Twenty-three years ago, gay leaders lamenting the lack of power within the LGBTQ community started a conference in order to effect much-needed political change. In a few weeks, I will be among the tens of thousands of attendees celebrating the incredible diversity and clout of my community. Eighteen years ago, Bill Clinton forged a progressive compromise allowing homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they remained in the closet. Last month, this same progressive legislation was rejected as obsolete even by some conservative Republicans. Finally, in just nine months we will mark the 10th anniversary of another event that changed the world. As America’s first openly gay soldiers strap on their combat boots to fight in the wars that sprung from the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I can’t help but express wonder at how quickly our world spins.

Correction: This column originally stated that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (COL ’80) is from Arkansas. Murkowski is in fact from Alaska.  

Albert Eisenberg is sophomore in the College. He can be reached at aeisenber@thehoya.com. JUST DOING ME appears every other Friday.

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