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Gays in the Military

By Andrew Delaney | Position Paper

Due to current United States military regulation, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) citizens have to keep their sexual orientation a secret if they want to serve in any branch of the armed forces.  In 1993, in an attempt to stifle protest from the gay community, President Bill Clinton initiated the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy (DADT) within the United States armed forces.  The policy indicated that while homosexual citizens could still serve in the armed forces, they could not do so if they announced their sexual orientation.  This policy mirrored a ban previously instated in the United States which universally banned all homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.  In other words, DADT was different because it only “banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform” (O’Keefe).  Recent opposition to the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy by President Barack Obama has been evident, and no more obvious then when he stated in a recent speech at the White House that “[t]hough we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes” (“Remarks by the President”).  Here, President Obama is referencing those Americans who continue to support DADT and, thusly, the restriction of homosexuals in the United States military.  In my opinion, the President’s current stance regarding DADT is correct.  In the paper, statistical evidence, precedent set by the policies of foreign militaries, and lessons learned from military integration in the past will show that the DADT policy is not only unjust, but a hindrance to the cause of the United States armed forces.

Throughout this paper my goal will be to illustrate how the DADT policy is unnecessary, and why it should ultimately be repealed and abolished.  First, we will examine statistics regarding the segregation openly homosexual citizens have faced in recent years due to DADT in order to build pathos and further augment my argument.  Next, we will discuss the policies of foreign militaries relating to the rights on LGBT citizens and their eligibility to serve in the armed forces of those specific countries.  Also, we will examine lessons learned from history in topics comparable to homosexual integration into the military.  By looking further into the racial and gender-based integration processes undergone by the United States military in the past, we will be able to foresee how integrating homosexuals will likely affect the armed forces.  In order to gain true appreciation for my side of the argument, we will then consider the opposite side of the issue as well.  By analyzing the supposed detrimental effects of homosexual integration into the United States military on unit cohesion and combat effectiveness, as well as the burden integration would put on the budget of the central government, we will hopefully be able to appreciate the views of those who support the DADT policy.  Finally, I will conclude and have hopefully presented an affective argument against the DADT policy.

DADT is very real within the present day United States military.  Its restrictions are detrimental to countless service men and women, not only in the work place, but as a part of their social and family lives as well.  From 1993 to 2009, a total of just fewer than 14,000 troops were discharged from any branch of the United States military on account of their homosexuality.  This number represents all members of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard who were discharged because they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  In a recent survey conducted by the Pentagon, which was released in a report 30 November 2010, a sample of service members from all branches of the United States military were subject to questions regarding DADT.  When asked how their level of morale would be affected if after DADT is repealed they were working with a service member in their immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, 43.6% of service members replied saying their morale would not be affected, and only 11.9% said their morale would be very negatively affected (“Report”).  A similar statistic is presented when the same sample is questioned regarding the affect that the repealing of DADT will have on their own personal job performance if they are working in a unit with an openly gay or lesbian service member.  Fifty-seven percent responded noting that they believed their job performance would be unaffected (“Report”).

While statistical representation provides a current, factual base, the past is where we search for model and actual results.  Foreign militaries have set the precedent regarding the integration of LGBT citizens and their rights to serve in the armed forces.  For the most part, in today’s world, major nondomestic militaries allow homosexual citizens to openly serve in their armed forces. In terms of the 43 countries in the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), 35 of those countries have no ban on gay or lesbian service within their armed forces (“Report”).  Also, included in the Pentagon’s report is the phrase, “A number of nations have, over the past 20 years, transitioned to policies permitting open service by gays and lesbians. These countries include the United Kingdom (policy changed in 2000), Canada (1992), Australia (1992), Germany (2000), and Israel (1993).”  While some of these countries amended policies based on legal obligations, such as court cases brought against the state on the basis of discrimination, most of the 35 nations did so out of the moral obligation to fair treatment of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.  More specifically, in Germany in the early 1990s, any ban on LGBT military service was officially lifted (“Gay German Soldier”).  In the years following, homosexuals, by German military law, were then allowed to become military officers as well.  By 2000, all official bans in Germany on military service by LGBT citizens were dismantled.  Australian policy mimics that of Germany and that of many other countries across the globe.  In research done by Congress regarding the policies of homosexuals in foreign military, it was found that Australia has allowed homosexuals to serve openly in their armed forces since 1992 (“Sexual Orientation”).  Also, more specifically, “early indications [were] that the new policy has had little or no adverse impact on unit cohesion” (Archive).  As expected, the document mentioned concern based on the adverse effect the integration may have on unit cohesiveness, a major component to the effectiveness of a combat unit, but reported no impact as of 1993.  In my opinion, the successful integration of LGBT citizens into many foreign militaries should serve as a result the United States should anticipate if we choose to do the same.

American history has taught us that integration in the armed forces is feasible.  Gender and racial integration has been initiated before, and in analyzing the immediate aftermath of those two processes, we can infer how the integration of LGBT service members will pan out.  An executive order by President Harry Truman moved to end segregation in the United States military in 1948.  It took over four years for each branch to adopt his policy, but eventually, in 1953, over 95% of African-American soldiers were serving in units which had been integrated as a result of Truman’s executive order (“Report”).  The decade previous to the issuing of the executive order by Truman, especially during World War II, was riddled with controversy surrounding the issue of whether or not it would be beneficial to the military to allow soldiers and sailors of different races to serve in arms together.  Particularly, Admiral Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific (CinCPAC) during WWII, did not support the integration of blacks into battle roles.  He has been quoted on the topic stating, “The policy [of limiting black Sailors to the mess man’s branch] was instituted in the interest of harmony and efficiency aboard ship after many years of experience” (“Report”).  It can be said that even if Nimitz’s claims represented the opinion of the majority during the time period, it may have, in fact, just been the time period which influenced the opinion, and nothing else.  In other words, racial segregation was the norm in everyday life, so why should it be different in everyday military life?  Comparing the military of a more modern age, with the age of a segregated military in near hindsight, racial integration was an overall benefit to unit cohesion.  By integrating all of the branches of the United States armed forces, an entirely new demographic of America was reached.  Aside from adding to their raw numbers, the military also gained competent leadership.  By 2004, all of the highest ranks in each of the main United States branches of the military had been held by a minority (“Race and the Military”).

Along with racial minorities, females are also an example of how integration has benefited the United States armed forces.  Female involvement in the United States military dates back to the time of the Revolutionary War.  During this era in American history, women were utilized mostly in nursing positions.  The roles of women in the military expanded during the first and second World Wars, when women were assigned to positions which they would normally hold in a civilian capacity (office clerks, telephone operators, etc.), and some were even stationed overseas.  Towards the end of World War II, women began becoming more useful in roles outside of the office and were assigned to missions in Europe involving espionage.  Despite the combat restrictions and the lack of wartime necessity, the need for women in the military increased radically in the decade following the war in Vietnam.  As a result of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed by both houses of Congress in 1972, more women were pushing for those opportunities for equality to present themselves in the military as well.  As written by Mady Segal in Gender and the Military, “In 1971 there were approximately 43,000 women in uniform (30,000 enlisted and 13,000 officers), constituting only 1.6% of total active-duty military personnel. By the end of 1980, 9 years later, there were about 173,000 women or about 8.5 % of total active duty forces” (572).  In today’s military, women have begun to occupy an increasing number of combat roles, and their numbers in the armed forces only continue to rise.  Specifically in the Navy, over 96% of positions are available for female occupations, with the opportunity for women to attend nuclear power school opening up just this past summer (Segal 574).  Females are still restricted from the special warfare community (SEALs) as well as some restricted line communities such as the medical corps and the chaplain corps.  Overall the integration of women in the military, while controversial at the time, proved to be beneficial to the mission of the United States armed forces.

There are those who do not agree with my stance on the DADT policy, and they believe that it is a necessary and proper policy within the United States armed forces.  Only by gathering the main points of their argument can one really appreciate the argument in its entirety.  The military presents many valid and concise arguments as to why DADT, implemented in the early 1990s, is both necessary and proper.  Ultimately the most politically correct argument stems from the fact that invasion of privacy (specifically when homosexuals may observe heterosexuals in undress, thus resulting in sexual excitement) will lead to diminishing morale and ultimately a less effective combat unit.  Being realistic, and looking at the effect on combat effectiveness, one can appreciate the negative repercussions the integration of homosexuals in combat-ready roles may arise.  Disregarding the basic right of equality, some may argue that adding a new factor to the complex machine that is the United States armed forces may only prove to add strain to an already multifaceted structure.  Why fix what isn’t broken, right?  The fact of the matter is that if a combat-ready United States Marine is uneasy about rooming with a homosexual, his combat effectiveness will decrease, and thus negatively affect the overall success of the mission at hand.  Many of those who support DADT would urge that the policy remain intact for at least the time being so that combat effectiveness in Afghanistan is not affected whatsoever.  Although we as an unbiased audience must take this argument seriously, we must also recognize that this reason is not the only preface for the military’s support of the DADT policy.

Another reason for the ban most likely stems from the image of the military itself.  In her book And the Flag Was Still There, Lois Shawver states, “In our society, the military has played the role of the institution capable of turning undisciplined, careless, rebellious lads into industrious, fearless, right-thinking men” (5).  It is obvious that the military must in part support the ban because of they do not want to surrender their masculine image.  The Marine Corps, more so than most other branches of the military, are feared, revered, and respected because of their elite, masculine image.  Both the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, and the most recently relieved Commandant, General Conway, advocated for the DADT policy.  General Conway in particular has been quoted saying, "We sometimes ask Marines what is their preference and I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual" (“Marine Leaders”).  This opinion did not pave the way for the Marine Corps’ traditional expectation of an all masculine, 100% heterosexual military.  In 2007, General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was interviewed and stated that he supported DADT and viewed homosexuality as an immoral sexual practice.  Although the Marine Corps does not boast the only supporters of the law, it does have the largest percentage among branches in the United States military, at 40% (“Marine Leaders”).  Other branches closely follow with the 27.6% of the Army supporting the policy, and 22.3% of the Navy.  These statistics show that while the policy is largely opposed by a majority of the armed forces, there are those still who view DADT as a necessary and proper policy within the United States military.

It is my hope that the statistical evidence, precedents set forth by the policies of foreign militaries, and lessons learned from military integration in the past shown here will help to sway the opinion of anyone who supports the DADT policy.  In my opinion, the policy should be repealed as soon as humanly possible to allow all citizens to serve in the armed forces of the United States.  It is ignorant to believe that a person’s combat readiness is doomed to suffer solely based on their sexual orientation.  In the interest of the true meaning of equal opportunity and of the liberties on which the United States was founded, I propose that a complete abolition of the DADT policy be taken into serious consideration. Why should the right to serve in the armed forces be restricted to anyone who is prepared to lay down their life for the country which has, for some time, suppressed their right to do so?



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