A recent writer indignantly championed Arizona Sen. John McCain, who now opposes the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in a Feb. 17 letter to the editor.

He described McCain as a "real military man and a true hero … who represents the military, not the politics of the administration."

McCain was elected to represent the people of Arizona, not the military. And once again our harrumphing "maverick" senator has flip-flopped. In 2006, McCain stated he would favor repealing "don't ask, don't tell" if military leaders ever did.

Well, they have. Not only do President Obama and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, want to end discrimination of gay people, but so do Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Secretary of State (and general) Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (and general) John Shalikashvili and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. I guess these are not real enough military men.

We must stop this embarrassingly dishonest, immature and hypocritical policy. Starting with the Navy's Crittenden study in 1957 and through the present, despite never ending research and debate, there is zero evidence that gays negatively affect performance of military duty. This glaring reality is supported by 25 other countries including Britain, Canada and Israel. Bravery, heroism, patriotism and a desire to serve country are not character traits owned solely by heterosexuals.

Some who support "don't ask, don't tell" assert that gay service people who disclose themselves face discrimination and possible physical harm.

Let me assure them that gays do not need their paternalistic protection and concern. Gays and lesbians have had to watch out for themselves since the dawn of discrimination and not only do we inevitably survive, we always thrive!

We challenged psychiatry when we were told we sick, religion when we were told we were sinners and the law when we were told we were criminals. And now we confront the military. Watch as the history of the United States continues to transition and transform.

The letter to the editor is correct about one thing: The end of "don't ask, don't tell" will not change minds. Prejudice is not changed by legislation any more than civil rights for African-Americans wiped out racism.

Change takes time, but change will happen. Change is threatening, destabilizing and frightening to many.

Full and unlimited citizenship for gay Americans is long, long overdue in every aspect of life and the abolition of "don't ask, don't tell" is one step in the right direction.

E-mail Robert Kafes at rkafes@earthlink.net