CLOSING REMARKS

“Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again.

It proclaims that fair housing for all

--all human beings who live in this country--

is now a part of the American way of life.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson

(during his speech at the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968)

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

“Privilege is transparent to those who have it.”

Dr. Michael Kimmel, Professor of Sociology

“Denying opportunity is at the heart of every form of discrimination.”

MSgt(R) Dale Nyhus

For a nation that claims to stand for freedom and equality, we are remarkably proficient at finding excuses to discriminate against one another.  The idea of “equal pay for equal work” is one of the simplest concepts in the world, and vital to a democratic society.  And yet we systemically fail to live up to it.  Why can't our incomes just be based on the work we do?  Is that really so difficult?

The right to fair housing is already protected for all Americans by the Fair Housing Act.  The law makes no exception for military service members without dependents.  Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for "equal protection of the laws".  DoD housing policies discriminate on the basis of familial status, and therefore violate both the Fair Housing Act and the Fourteenth Amendment.

To its credit, the military has made significant improvements in equal opportunity over the years, but it is still a work in progress.  What does it say about equality for women when the only way for a female service member to maximize her income is to get married or have a child?  She can’t maximize her income through hard work.  She can’t maximize her income through education.  She can’t even maximize her income through leadership.  All of those things help earn promotions, but no matter what rank she achieves, she cannot maximize her income unless she is attractive enough to land a spouse, fertile enough to have a child, or willing to adopt.  The term "misogynistic" doesn't even begin to describe how wrong this is.

I have had several members thank me for the work I am doing on this issue.  To my surprise, most have been officers, some as high as Colonel (O-6).  Why do I mention this?  Because it helps demonstrate that this is a real issue, affecting all ranks, and it needs a real solution.  To that end, we need senior leaders who have the moral courage to call this what it is... discrimination!  It has the familiar hallmarks:  denied opportunity, inferior income, inferior housing, and a lack of awareness or concern on the part of those in a position to fix the problem.

 

We used to discriminate based on race, but we were wrong.  Over time, we saw the error in our ways, and we changed.  But change did not come easily.  There were those who did not want the change to happen.  They quoted existing guidance and advocated the status quo.  But they were defeated because the soul of a democracy insists upon equal opportunity.

 

We used to discriminate based on gender, but we were wrong.  Over time we saw the error in our ways, and we changed.  But change did not come easily.  There were those who did not want the change to happen.  They quoted existing guidance and advocated the status quo.  But they were defeated because the soul of a democracy insists upon equal opportunity.

 

We still discriminate based on familial status.  And we are wrong!  It is time to see the error in our ways.  It is time to change.  But change will not come easily.  There will be those who do not want the change to happen.  They will quote existing guidance and advocate the status quo.  But they will be defeated because the soul of a democracy insists upon equal opportunity.