SIXTEEN YEARS AGO
I was serving in the United Kingdom when Clinton's historic Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy was enacted, allowing, for the first time, a lift on the ban of homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces. This was met, as you may be able to imagine, with derision and mockery from within the ranks, but it paled in comparison to the editorial cartoons reprinted in the Stars and Stripes overseas newspaper, the only forum we had in which to gauge U.S. reaction.
I was home on leave later the next year and had mentioned to my gay friends that I never understood why gays were so hell-bent on getting in the military what with it being forbidden and all. I asked them if it was a sort of rite-of-passage or a thrill to do something they weren't allowed to. One of them asked me if I figured out the answer. I had not and I'm ashamed to admit that once he told me, it still took me many years to understand it: They wanted to serve.
My Air Force sister-in-arms kat_rowe recently asked for signatures repealing the law on its anniversary, and I must admit, I'd not thought much about it. Fortunately, the link she posted provided a wealth of information for me to consider my options, and these are my findings.
- And yet issues with implementation – such as a vague and widely varied interpretation on what qualifies as a gay or lesbian ‘act’ – still exist.1
- No one has to define for me what is, or is not, a homosexual act. There are many things I instinctively understand and this is one of them. Furthermore, the US Code is *crystal clear* to me: "any bodily contact, actively undertaken or passively permitted, between members of the same sex for the purpose of satisfying sexual desires;"2
- Sixty-seven percent of civilians support allowing gays to serve openly3
- That's fantastic! However, those civilians are not currently serving. I read your blogs - your biggest complaint on a bad day is what so-and-so said about you or the traffic. People living in prison have more rights and freedoms than I experienced while in Saudi Arabia. Frankly, your vote means nothing to me.
- Nearly three in four troops (73 percent) say they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians.4
- And here's always the way it is. "Nearly" means its not, and is used only when trying to inflate something, and "comfortable" isn't exactly a rousing recommendation. To me, not seeing any difference whatsoever is key to its success. Obviously we're not there yet.
- More than 20 of the 26 NATO nations, including Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel, already allow open service by gays and lesbians, and none of the countries reports morale or recruitment problems.5
- How many of those services are manned by conscripts? You want to impress me with facts, compare our career infantrymen with theirs.
Sadly, these points I disagree with were gleaned from the anti-DADT website and the links they provided. At least they were thorough. Also linked is the 2009 winner of the Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition, "The Efficacy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”" which very succinctly outlines how complex this law is from several different legal viewpoints, but does challenge the stated "unit cohesion" verbiage of the law as being without scientific evidence6, but unfortunately does not back up his claim by providing scientific evidence to the contrary.
One last aspect I would like to touch on is religious beliefs. This one is hard even for me, because I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. Its difficult to unlearn a lifetime of lessons.
I have two books at my bedside, Lieutenant: the Marine Corps Code of Conduct and the King James Bible. The only proper authorities I am aware of are my commanding officer, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, and the Lord our God.
~ Lt. Kendrick, "A Few Good Men"
The statement that "societal views have grown far more accommodating in the last 16 years..."7 I realized applied to me. I am part of that dynamic and undulating society and have learned and experienced much in that time. I've also learned that your sacred religious doctrine is nothing more than a societal tool itself, evolving as we do. It therefore no longer holds power over me.
If I was sitting on the fence throughout all of this, there was one notation from an Office of the Secretary of Defense memorandum which was quoted in Attitudes of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans toward Gay and Lesbian Service Members which I kept coming back to:
The Department of Defense has long held that, as a general rule, homosexuality is incompatible with military service because it interferes with the factors critical to combat effectiveness, including unit morale, unit cohesion, and individual privacy. Nevertheless, the Department of Defense also recognizes that individuals with a homosexual orientation have served with distinction in the armed services of the United States.8Yes, they have. And they're no different from me.
Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"
Repeal DADT: http://www.hrc.org/sites/voicesofhonor/index.asp*
1 - http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2009/11/announcing-the-voices-of-honor-campaign ¶ 3.
2 - US Code Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 37 §654, ¶ F, Subcategory 3A.
3 - http://www.hrc.org/sites/voicesofhonor/dadt.asp ¶ 9.
4 - Ibid ¶ 10.
5 - Ibid ¶ 11.
6 - http://wilddamntexan.com/kids/EfficacyofDADT.pdf Page 94, ¶ 1.
7 - Ibid Page 89, ¶ 3.
8 - http://www.palmcenter.org/files/active/0/randstudy.pdf Page 2, ¶4.
*Thanks to kat_rowe