On September 20, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell finally goes where it belongs: the dustbin of history. Back in December, when President Obama led the lame-duck congress to repeal DADT, I posted on Facebook that I was happy about the unexpected turn of events. This was my exact post: “DADT finally repealed, ending legalized discrimination against gay people by our own military, responding to the will of the people, and helping to keep our country safe.”
Most of the responses back then were positive because most of my Facebook friends are reasonable people who don’t support discrimination. But one friend responded that the repeal of DADT was a “sad day” for the military. He said that we would just have to “agree to disagree” on the subject. I posted in response that before I could agree to disagree, I’d be interested in hearing his reasons for opposing the repeal of DADT.
He’s was quiet on the subject after that, updating his own Facebook profile with standard everyday information, but not venturing back to my profile to let me know why he opposes the DADT repeal. In the absence of his thoughts, I did some research to see what reasons people could possibly have to object to the end of legalized discrimination in the military. Here’s what I discovered, a dozen bogus reasons, and why people who use these reasons to say that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to serve are just plain wrong:
Bogus Reason 1: Gay people are evil.
This is a belief generally put forward by extreme right-wing people of the world’s major religious who say that homosexuality is wrong because the Bible/Koran/Fox News, etc. says it’s wrong. Yes, the Old Testament of the Bible, specifically the book of Leviticus, says homosexuality is wrong: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Interesting how this singles out men. Lesbians aren’t mentioned, so are they okay? And that same book says eating shellfish is an “abomination.” Why is there no outcry about banning shellfish from military mess halls?
Leviticus also condemns lots of other things: having sex when the woman has her period, cursing your parents, shaving facial hair, eating pork, planting two different kinds of seeds in the same field, and wearing clothes made of two different kinds of fabric. Many modern military uniforms are made of poly-blends, but where is the outrage from the religious right?
So why are some people fixated with what the Bible says about male-on-male homosexuality but not the other rules laid down in Leviticus? Why the selective application of various Bible verses to condemn one thing but not all the others? Why the logical inconsistency? Because people who think gay people are evil are not logical thinkers on this subject–just plain old-fashioned bigots. And bigots should not influence policy for the United States military.
Bogus Reason 2: Allowing gay soldiers to serve is a radical left-wing social experiment that has no place in the military.
Actually, the opposite is true. In the real world, straight people work side-by-side with gay people. That’s not any kind of “experiment.” It’s just real life. Banning openly gay people from the military is the radical experiment, and that experiment has been a failure. Since enacting DADT, nearly 14,000 men and women have been fired from the military–not for their behavior, but for their identity. There is a name for a person who believes firing someone because of his or her identity is a moral practice. They’re called bigots.
In addition, these investigations and firings have cost millions of taxpayer dollars and led to the loss of thousands of soldiers in a time when the United States is fighting two wars. That’s a radical social experiment that is not only an expensive travesty our military can’t afford right now, but also, more importantly, morally wrong.
Of course, most people who approve of firing gay people because they are gay would say that their “gayness” is a choice. Scientific studies and basic common sense tell us that someone’s sexual identity is primarily a product of birth, not a choice. No one ever says that straight people are straight simply by choice, so why would anyone assume being gay is a choice? But a few things are certain when it comes to the choices people make: discrimination is a choice, homophobia is a choice, and bigotry is a choice.
Bogus Reason 3: The American people are against the repeal of DADT.
Senator John McCain said that the November 2010 election was a repudiation of everything Democrats stand for, including the repeal of DADT. His point of view is in contrast with the reality that economic issues dominated the November vote. In fact, two polls taken around the time of the 2010 election show that about three-fourths of Americans support the repeal of DADT. In this “divided” nation, there are very few other issues that command such support from our citizens.
Senator McCain, in a rambling, insulting speech from the floor of the Senate, called the supporters of repeal “bizzaro,” “elite,” and residents of “liberal bastions.” Perhaps instead of name-calling, he should ask himself why he is in such an isolated minority of people who are against openly gay people serving in the military.
Bogus Reason 4: Current soldiers are against the repeal.
This is simply not true. An extensive Pentagon study of the subject found that 70% of current military personnel aren’t concerned about DADT repeal. Only 30% of the soldiers surveyed expressed concerns about serving with gay soldiers. In any democratic election, 70 beats 30.
Bogus Reason 5: Military leadership is against the repeal.
Right-wingers are fond of noting Marine Commandant James Amos’s objection to the repeal of DADT, as well as hesitation about the policy change from other military leaders. Amos, in particular, claimed that the repeal of DADT would be a distraction that could lead to Marines being injured or killed.
Amos’s contention that gay soldiers would put their fellow soldiers at risk didn’t sit well with Retired Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American injured in the Iraq War in 2003. Alva lost his leg to a land mine and was awarded the Purple Heart. Alva recently called Amos’s remarks, “conduct unbecoming … to say that there are distractions and could cause deaths or even loss of limbs for people because of knowing that there are openly gay men and women serving in the military. I mean, this is just unbelievable.” By the way, Sergeant Alva, a 13-year veteran combat Marine and an American war hero, is openly gay.
Opponents of DADT repeal fail to mention that Amos’s two superiors are in favor of repeal. The Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, has publically stated his support for gay service members being allowed to serve openly for the past year. Dormer Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a Republican who also served in the George W. Bush administration) has also been in favor of the repeal of DADT.
Aside from Amos, the leaders who expressed doubt about the repeal have also said it would not create major problems to implement. Army chief of staff General George Casey said, “properly implemented, I do not envision that it [DADT repeal] would keep us from accomplishing our worldwide missions, including combat operations.”
Air Force chief of staff General Norton Schwartz said of the repeal, “airmen in the U.S. Air Force will implement the change professionally, thoroughly, and effectively.”
The chief of naval operations Admiral Gary Roughead released this statement of support after the repeal vote: “I am pleased the Congress voted to repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute.”
General Colin Powell, the former Chair of the Joint Chiefs, former Secretary of State, and one of the nation’s most respected voices on military matters, was one of the architects of DADT nearly 20 years ago. He is now in favor of repealing the ban on openly gay service members.
One other high-ranking official also happens to be a long-time supporter of gay people serving openly in the military: the Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama. Our constitution provides for civilian oversight of the military, with the president at the top of the chain of command. President Obama knew that if he issued an executive order overturning DADT, then a future president could countermand that order. He also knew that allowing the recent court orders declaring DADT unconstitutional were not enough on their own to change the policy. He encouraged congress to pass the repeal so that it would be the law of the land.
Bogus Reason 6: Veterans are against the repeal.
Some veterans groups opposed DADT repeal, but others have not. The American Legion, a veterans support organization, actively came out against the appeal of DADT. The largest veterans group, Veterans of Foreign Wars, had issued statements in support of the DADT policy, but the group didn’t lobby against repeal of the policy. While the organization might have been against repeal, it clearly has no problem with gay people serving in the military. Richard Eubank, head of the VFW, said after the repeal vote passed, “Homosexuals have and will continue to serve in uniform with great honor and dignity because they understand the military is all about the team.” The American Legion and VFW represent older veterans and are more conservative organizations.
Two more recently formed veterans groups disagree with the American Legion and VFW’s opposition to repeal. Veterans for Common Sense, founded in 2002, supports the repeal of DADT. Another group that represents soldiers who have served more recently our current wars is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. This group strongly supports repeal of DADT. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the group, said: “IAVA shares Secretary Gates’ and Admiral Mullen’s opinion that upholding the integrity of the military as an institution is critical. All men and women who have committed their lives to service and sacrifice in our military should be treated equally.”
Bogus Reason 7: Openly gay soldiers will be prone to sexual misconduct.
Some repeal opponents have said that the military will now be overrun with gay people having sex. This thinking comes from the idea that gay people are promiscuous, along with the weird right-wing fixation that gay sex is so wonderfully tempting that it’s impossible to resist. That perspective is an inaccurate stereotype propagated by homophobic bigots.
Of course, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell does not pave the way for basic sexual misconduct, such as engaging in any kind of sexual behavior at inappropriate times in inappropriate places. A male soldier who brings a male lover into the barracks will be in violation of the same rules as a male solder who brings a female lover into the barracks.
And anyone who thinks the military’s ban on gay soldiers kept it a pure institution immune to sexual misconduct in the past just needs to Google the words “Tailhook scandal” or “military rape.” No one can blame gay people for that evil crap.
Bogus Reason 8: The integration of openly gay soldiers will cost millions of dollars.
Some people are saying that the armed forces will have to build expensive new accommodations to house openly gay soldiers and straight soldiers separately. The people spreading this bizarre claim have obviously not read the Pentagon report on implementing the DADT repeal because it clearly states that there will be no such separate accommodations.
The root of this objection seems to always come back to the shower. How can straight soldiers be expected to shower with gay soldiers? Once again, ignorance is at the root of this viewpoint. The stereotype claims that any gay people who see someone of their own gender naked in the shower will be powerless against their sexual attraction. The belief that gay people are attracted to everyone of their own gender, or that gay people can’t control their impulses is simply ignorance.
In addition, the “what about the shower?” objection shows a great deal of insecurity. Are these people afraid that straight people will be reduced to blubbering infants at the terrible trauma of being seen naked by someone who might (gasp!) find them attractive? The best response to such thinking is Grow up! The bottom line is that straight soldiers have been showering with gay soldiers since the military and showers existed. The only difference is that now the straight soldiers may actually know which other showering soldiers are gay.
Another usually unspoken insecurity behind the shower worry is that being seen by a gay person in the shower would activate the previously straight person’s latent homosexuality. These folks fear that their true selves might surface, which is ironic considering they believe that being gay is a choice, not a part of identity, so they don’t believe in the concept of latent homosexuality to begin with. Oh well, being logical is not a hallmark of the bigoted person.
Bogus Reason 9: Gay soldiers will “feminize” the army and weaken its ability to fight.
The stereotype of gay men as feminine at the root of this criticism ignores the fact that the military actually includes a training program that produces qualified soldiers. This training program is called “boot camp.” Recruits who can’t handle the physical demands of being a soldier–whether they are straight or gay–get discharged or redirected to different duties long before they reach combat.
In addition, anybody who uses the term “feminize” as an insult to soldiers hasn’t met many female members of our great military. Most of them could kick the asses of these homophobes whose panties are in a bunch of the DADT repeal.
Bogus Reason 10: Repeal of DADT will lead to reinstitution of the military draft
This objection is laughable at best, and based on the theory that so few people will want to join the military if gay people are allowed to serve openly that a draft will be needed to ensure the nation has enough soldiers to staff its military. The confused people espousing this theory also think that currently serving soldiers will resign from the military rather than serve with openly gay soldiers. People holding these ridiculous idea give no supporting evidence for their theory, of course.
The actual evidence is that three-fourths of the American public approve of the repeal of DADT, and 92% of military people responding to the Pentagon survey reported no problem actually serving with gay colleagues. These facts indicate that military recruitment and retention will not suffer. In addition, any soldiers who care so little about serving America that they would avoid the military rather than serving with gay people–well, that doesn’t sound like the kind of commitment we want from members of our armed forces.
Bogus Reason 11: America is a unique nation, and repealing DADT is an attack on American exceptionalism.
We Americans like to do things our own way. So some opponents of DADT repeal cringe when they hear factual reports that many other nations allow openly gay people to serve in the military with no significant problems. Their line of thinking seems to be, “Just because those weirdoes in Europe are okay with gays in the military doesn’t mean America should”–as if every other nation is simply stupid.
There is nothing “exceptional” about banning gay soldiers from the military. Lots of countries practice such discrimination. Here are a few: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Uganda. This is not exactly a list of the great citizen-nations of the earth but, instead, a list of the most repressive governments that routinely restrict the rights of their citizens.
On the other hand, these countries are among those that allow gay service members: Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Not only are these nations among the United States’ greatest current and historical allies, but they’re also some of the most democratic nations of the earth.
Take a close look at the two lists of nations. Which list best matches our great nation?
Bogus Reason 12: Gay soldiers will cause distractions, problems, and a breakdown in unit cohesion.
As mentioned earlier, 70% of current military personnel aren’t concerned about DADT repeal. Only 30% of the soldiers surveyed expressed concerns about serving with gay soldiers. Those solders are entitled to their opinion–but, the last time I checked, members of the military are expected to follow the orders of superior officers. The integration of openly gay service members will be an order from above. Any soldiers who disobey those orders will be subject to the same penalties as solders who disobey any other orders.
Rank-and-file soldiers don’t make the rules of the military, and they never have. If a group of soldiers came to their commanding officer with the news that they don’t want to serve with Private Johnson because Johnson is a Woman, Buddhist, Texan, Asian, Republican, Caucasian, Hispanic, Democrat, Negro, Christian, Muslim, or Lakers fan, they would be told to shut up and do their jobs. Now that openly gay soldiers will be no longer be discriminated against, any solders who don’t want to serve with Private Johnson because Johnson’s gay will rightly be told to shut up and do their jobs.
More to the point, who is the real source of the problem? Are patriotic gay soldiers who volunteer to serve their country the problem? Or are homophobic soldiers who value their own bigotry above the orders from the chain of command and the civilian oversight of the military the problem? In that mythical foxhole, would a typical soldier rather fight alongside gays or bigots? The answer is clear. Openly gay people are being true to who they are. Bigots are not trustworthy human beings. The military is better off with gay soldiers than bigoted ones any day.
I’m sure many white soldiers thought that the President Harry Truman’s executive order calling for the integration of African Americans into the military in the late 1940s was a “sad day” that would lead to ruin for the U.S. armed forces. Many male soldiers throughout history have objected to allowing women into the military. Those racists and sexists weren’t allowed to stand in the way of progress and the improvement of our great military then, so homophobic soldiers shouldn’t be allowed to hold the military back now.
Thirty years ago, my father told me that many white people objected to the racial integration of the military not long after he served in World War II. When I asked him why, he said, “Because they didn’t know any better.” Dad was being kind because his views on race were well ahead of his time. I’m sure he thought those people were ignorant bigots. Dad knew that ignorance and bigotry were closely connected.
December 18, 2010, the date of the DADT repeal vote, is a great day in American history. September 20, 2011, the date of the DADT repeal implementation is a great date as well. But I can agree with my anti-repeal Facebook friend about one thing: The repealed of DADT was indeed a sad day in one respect. It was the day many Americans revealed that they are the same kind of people my father said “didn’t know any better” long ago. Thirty years from now, when we look back on the repeal of DADT, the people who objected to gay people serving in the military will be viewed just as Dad viewed those who opposed racial and gender integration of the military more than sixty years ago: ignorant at best and bigoted at worst.