Gays in the Military


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Very often political institutions reflect the will of society and set the
precedent for norms that will be expected of its members. The United States
Military is still enforcing archaic policies which threaten to harm the
principles our nation was founded upon. The principles of freedom and equality
are those that every American holds closest to their heart, that is unless you
are in the military and are gay. The issue of gays in the military has developed
into a case of whether our country should discriminate against a group merely
because of involuntary sexual orientation. Two persistent principles are evident
within this topic: that homosexuals are ever present throughout all branches of
the military and a persistent hostility against this group is in American
society and the military. In order to effectively examine this topic the
following concepts will be discussed: an analysis of the current Department Of
Defense policy concerning gays, solutions to reduce homophobia in the military,
a policy model concerning homosexuals in the military ( Lepicer 1-14 ).

Prior to the arrival of the Clinton Administration with its agenda to
radically revise military policy regarding the acceptance and treatment of
homosexuals, Department of Defense policy was well established and clear. Legal
questions began to be raised in civilian courts challenging the military
exclusion and discharge policies in the 1960's and 1970's. The services were
forced to explain and clearly justify specific limits and procedures used in
relation to service members claiming to be homosexual or convicted of such
behavior. During the Carter Administration a clear policy was signed into law.
It reads:

Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence
in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual
conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to
engage in such conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of
the military mission. The presence of such members adversely
affects the ability of the Military Services to maintain discipline,
good order, and morale: to foster mutual trust and confidence
among service members; to ensure the integrity of the system of
rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment
of service members who frequently must live and work under close
conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members
of the Military Services: to maintain the public acceptability of
military service; and to prevent breaches of security ( Lepicer ).

Everyone agrees that gays were already in the military, but gays want to
serve their country out of the closet. This concept pitted the gay community
against the traditionalists who want to keep them out. The result is a
compromising "Don't ask / Don't Tell" policy which prevents recruiters from

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inquiring about an enlistees sexual preference. The purpose of the military is
to kill people and complete the mission at hand. Therefore anything that hinders
the military from fulfilling this role is a potential threat to national
security and must be looked at in an objective manner. The military's attitude
towards homosexuals dates back to the Revolutionary War when General George
Washington approved the discharge and court martial of an officer for attempted
sodomy. Every year more than 800 service members are separated from the military
based on sexual orientation. The Department Of Defense current policy is both
discriminatory and ineffective. Homosexuals should have the right to serve their
country as long as their job performance is not affected by their private life.
Currently the military does not actively seek out and prosecute heterosexual
service members who engage in sodomy but they will go to great lenghts to
investigate mere claims of homosexual conduct. Often history repeats itself and
the integration of African Americans into the military was one which met great
opposition but is now an accepted principle. We as a country can see the
foolishness and downright prejudice that was involved in the opposition of
integration of minorities into our military, one which in 20 years we may
equate with the current arguments involving gays in the military ( Wornsop 195-
212 , Schlueter 393-432).

In his article , "Not Asking or Telling: No remedy," in the March 25, 1995,
edition of the National Journal, David Morrison suggests that President
Clinton's policy of "Don't ask , Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" has done little to
end the controversy. The new policy is nothing more than a reworded version of
the old policy. The new policy forbids inquiries based on "rumor, suspicion, or
capricious claims regarding a member's sexual orientation." But in reality this
has not stopped some commanders. The Service Members Legal Defense Network cites
these cases: a service member investigated after an anonymous phone call, and
another investigated because he had taken notes for a class on homosexuality.
These cases show clearly how military leaders blatantly violate both current
policy and individual rights (Morrison 748-749).

Defense Department officials say that the policy appears to be working
because the number of discharges is down. There appears to be a distinct
conflict between the cases that are reported and the Pentagons statements that
center around the premise that there have been no violations of the policy. In
her book , Homosexuals And The Right To Serve, Major Melissa Wells-Petry
discusses the military's objections to lifting the ban. One of the main issues
is that of gender segregation. The author explains that gender segregation is
based on two principles: " People have a preference for people of the opposite
sex and they should be allowed to choose to whom they expose an aspect of their
sexuality." Lifting the ban would expose the charade that their are no
homosexuals in the military. The argument is often brought up that says the
presence of homosexuals detracts from the military mission is present in both
written policy and actual belief. In reality anyone engaging in any sexual
activity in the military environment threatens the mission of the military. The
distinction of homosexual activity has no validity or bearing on the truth of
the matter. It is impossible to see how homosexuals can detract from the
maintenance of good order when nearly 75% of those already in the military are
never discovered. If a person causes a problem with order, morale or discipline
they should be separated from service regardless of sexual orientation
( Wells, Davis 54-107).

The idea that homosexuals pose a security risk is clearly unfounded since
in a House Of Representatives Committee on National Security report proves gays
are less of a risk. Of the 117 reported espionage cases between 1945 and 1991
only 6 involved homosexuals. The key to ending discrimination based on sexual
orientation in the military is to bring an end to homophobia or antigay bias. In
the book After The Ball : How America Will Conquer It's Fear & Hatred Of Gays
In The 90's, the authors explore the ways to help America accept homosexuals.
The techniques proposed are desensitization, jamming, and conversion.
Desensitization aims at attempting to lower the level of anti-gay rhetoric. If
we can effectively integrate homosexuals in the military then the novelty of
homosexuals will diminsh and so will the associated prejudice. Jamming is an
aggressive and active approach which uses a psychological process that uses two
competing theories that are associated. One example of jamming the military
could use is sensitivity training which will both educate the ignorant
individual and also get the individual to feel shame for having such an
unsupported prejudice for an oppressed group. The concept of of conversion is
actually changing ones views and beliefs. This idea is most effective when
people are exposed to homosexuals in their everyday lives. If the military
continues to create conditions which discourage an individual from openly
declaring their homosexuality then prejudice will continue and the us vs. them
mentality will flourish. If someone discovers a friend is homosexual but is
still very much like themselves then the concept of homosexuality becomes
irrelevant. When people have prejudice against a certain group they rationalize
by saying how different they are from them. It is evident that the issues
involved with lifting the ban on African Americans in the military has some very
distinct similarities with the issue of homosexuals. Tim Mcfeeley , executive
director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund states, "Homosexuals are being
persecuted in the military for being different from the mainstream, just as
blacks were maltreated in the 1940's and 50's" ( Duke A1, House Of
Representatives 95-21).

From the Revolutionary War to present day homosexuals have served in the
military with distinction and pride. Yet although many have died in defense of
the principles upon which our nation was founded they are being denied the
fundamental rights of liberty and equality. Thousands of members of our military
have been denied their right to serve their country and a career in the military
essentially because they are gay. In the process of instilling archaic
principles upon the military our nation has compromised its combat effectiveness
and undermined institutional integrity. In his speech announcing the " Don't ask
Don't tell," policy President Clinton makes a very compelling argument against
discrimination. Because the military " is an institution that embodies the best
in America and must reflect the society in which it operates, it is also right
for the military to make changes when the time for change is at hand. I strongly
believe that the military , like our society, needs the talents of every person
who wants to make a contribution…" Certainly the time for change is upon us. The
military must stop discriminating based upon sexual orientation. If job
performance is affected by any factor then the service member must be allowed to
correct the deficiencies or be separated. But if the basis for investigation is
mere suspicion or beliefs that such behavior may affect the organization this is
not a valid principle. The military must not allow illogical prejudices to drive
personnel policies. The growing number of military organizations and para-
military organizations that accept openly gay individuals proves the Pentagons
fears are unfounded. The Pentagon has stated that openly gay service members
threaten morale and fighting effectiveness. A General Accounting Office review
found that out of seventeen foreign military forces only four explicitly ban
homosexuals from service. This shows America is in need of a policy change and
it must be fair and succinct ( House Of Representatives ).

Many veterans and soldiers feel that even if the ban were lifted it would
not improve conditions or increase acceptance levels of gays in the military.
But lifting the ban would relieve the pressure on gay members which would
translate into an increased proficiency of job performance. Lifting the ban
would also allow law enforcement and investigory agencies to re-direct their
resources toward criminal violations rather than enforcing morals upon the
minority. Research indicates that in foreign countries that allow homosexuals to
serve the number of openly gay individuals is quite small. The majority of the
members were discrete and there were few problems caused by the presence of
homosexual members. Very often the banning of a specific group causes members of
society to hold irrational beliefs and then engage in violent activity against
those classes of people they believe are a threat to the groups integrity.
Heterosexuals are often more accepting of those with alternate lifestyles when
this groupis not banned by the predominant authority. Emphasis must be placed on
behavior, conduct and work performance. Military leadership must reassure both
the minority and the majority by supporting everyone's right to choose (
Lolorado C1 ).

Clearly the evidence supports the lifting of the gay ban in full. The
military's discrimination of individual based on sexual orientation is not only
morally wrong but collides with the principles our country was founded upon,
equality and freedom. Our nation has learned important things from the
integration of African Americans into our military. The success of both our
nation and military depends upon the utilization of all of the resources that
are available. America cannot compete effectively if it relies upon outdated
prejudices which are completely without merit. Sexual orientation is a personal
private issue and not one which compromises national security.


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