By Huong T. Nguyen
NCLR Guest Columnist
Saturday, December 18, 2010. It’s 8:30 a.m., and I am still in bed. I hear footsteps hurriedly coming up the stairs. My bedroom door slams open, and a big mass lands on my body. Thromp! I open one eye and see my earnest 5-year-old son, Rowan, staring intently down at me. He whispers, “Mommy, wake up, they are voting to move the bill.
It’s only been three hours since I succumbed to sleep. I was keeping a vigil. I had a crazy idea that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would happen if I could just continue to send out good energy to the universe. I have been completely distracted since Thursday when Senator Harry Reid announced—only a week after the Senate failed to move the bill forward as part of the Defense Authorization Act—that he would bring the stand-alone repeal of the bill to a vote today.
On Thursday, as news came that the stand-alone repeal, a bipartisan effort by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins, would likely garner sufficient votes to break Senator John McCain’s filibuster, I had a mixture of feelings. Half of me thought, “Tamp down your hopes. You’ll need to conserve strength to weather another failure and continue to fight.” The other half replied, “Throw your fears to the wind. We’ve never been this close. It will happen. Just believe that people will do the right thing.” And when I fell asleep early Saturday, I dared to believe.
After rousing me, Rowan rushes back downstairs. I groggily make my way to the living room, where I find my wife Alison, Rowan, and my other son Theryn, age 8, glued to C-SPAN. Alison sees me and begins to cry. For the next 15 minutes, our family watches the vote to break the filibuster unfold. Sixty-three votes. Filibuster broken. And with the final “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal vote in three hours now certain, our family breaks out in cheers and tears. A little more justice, compassion, and love entered the world.
NOTE: On Saturday, December 18, 2010, history was made when the Senate voted 65 to 31 to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory 17-year-old policy banning lesbians, gays, and bisexuals from serving openly in the military.
NCLR Guest Columnist Huong T. Nguyen has shared her military dismissal under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through her weekly diary blog series. Read Part One: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way, Part Two: Light Bulb, Part Three: A New Identity, Part Four: The Education of Private Nguyen, Part Five: The Girl, Part Six: No Air, Part Seven: The Truth Will Set You Free, Part Eight: The Trial, Part Nine: The Story, Part 10: There’s A Place For Us, Part 11: The Repeal: No One Left Behind,and Finale: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: In the Olden Days.
Nguyen is an attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she resides with her wife and two children.