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Gays in the Military

The Logistics

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Gays in the Military
Updated October 22, 2010
Guide Note: I wrote the below article in 1999 when I first started the About.com US Military Site. Recently, a court declared the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to be unconstitutional (the military is currently appealing that ruling), so who knows what will ultimately happen? The other day, a few of my gay friends asked me my opinion on eliminating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I was forced to answer, "I don't know, I'd have to think about it." They replied, "Well, think about it." I have, and it resulted in rewriting the below original article:

The issue of gays in the military has been a hot political debate ever since the beginning of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." For the most part, liberals wish to allow gays to openly serve in the armed forces, while conservatives wish to keep the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," policy, or wish to ban gays from serving in the military outright.

The military didn't make up the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The military has no choice but to obey federal laws enacted by Congress and Executive Orders directed by the Commander-in-Chief (The President).

When President Clinton was running for office, the Department of Defense (DOD) had a policy (which was based upon Article 125 of the UCMJ), which *PROHIBITED* homosexuals from serving in the military. If one was even suspected to be homosexual (whether or not they were actively engaging in homosexual conduct), they were investigated, and (if determined to be homosexual) discharged. Sometimes they were court-martialed. Often, they received Article 15s along with their discharge.

Clinton promised (as a campaign promise) to eliminate the restrictions about homosexuals serving in the military. When he was elected to office, he set about trying to make this happen, by drafting an Executive Order which would have ordered the Secretary of Defense to eliminate the policy.

This worried the members of Congress who introduced legislation which would have made the DOD policy into Federal Law, that Clinton (nor any other President) would not be able to over-ride. It was very clear that not only did Congress have enough votes to pass the law, but they had enough votes to over-ride any possible Presidential veto.

Clinton was now between a rock and a hard place. If he tried to enact an Executive Order, Congress would pass their legislation, and he could not afford (politically) to have his first veto over-ridden by Congress.

So, the negotiations began, which ultimately resulted in Clinton issuing an Executive Order for the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. In exchange, Congress dropped the legislation which would have made a federal law, forever forbidding homosexuals to serve.

Under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military no longer asks a person's sexual preference when that person enlists (it used to be a question on the enlistment forms). The military no longer investigates claims that a person is homosexual (they can, and do, however, investigate allegations of homosexual CONDUCT). Homosexual CONDUCT is still grounds for discharge (honorable). CONDUCT includes, not only homosexual acts while on active duty, but also includes telling others that you are homosexual (That's the "Don't Tell" part).

President Obama campaigned with a promise to replace the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with one that allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. However, after taking office, he has failed to keep his promise thus far. In a recent interview, Obama stated that now is not yet the time. You have to assume that the President (as Commander-In-Chief) is briefed often on this matter by the highest ranking military officials (and those guys are pretty sharp cookies). In fact, the current Obama administration is planning on fighting a recent Federal court ruling which declares "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to be unconstitutional. You have to ask yourself, "Why would the Obama administration fight against a ruling they were initially in favor of?"

I would suspect that President Obama has been convinced of all the problems it would create if the policy was changed at this time. I have been contacted by SEVERAL current military members who state that they would get out of the military if gays and lesbians were allowed to serve openly. My User Comment section on this issue is flooded with opinions stating passionate feelings about both sides of the debate.

What bothers me is that most of the people who criticize the policy either have no significant military experience, OR, their military experience is limited to the relatively luxurious privileges of the commissioned officer.

Single commissioned officers who reside on-base are authorized to reside in single rooms. That makes all the difference in the world. But, what about the poor, low-rank, enlisted person, who is forced to live in the barracks with a roommate? Isn't anyone concerned at all about the privacy rights of the single, low-ranking heterosexual?

I will be the first to admit that homosexuals have served in the military for generations. I will also stipulate, that most have served with honor and distinction. I will further admit that the relatively minor problems which would arise in the workplace, could be effectively handled.

What I fail to understand is exactly how the military would be expected to house openly-admitted homosexuals, in an environment where we force people to room together, without seriously violating the sexual privacy rights of the heterosexual majority, or causing major problems with morale.

One thing supporters of this change fail to realize is that there is NO RIGHT to serve in the U.S. Military. The military is allowed, by law, to determine who is suitable for their purposes, and who is not. For example, if you have had or have a medical condition which (in the opinion of the military, not your own) would cause problems, the military will not accept you. If you score low on the military entrance test (ASVAB), the military will not accept you. If you have too many kids, you can't get in. If you didn't graduate from high school, or made some minor criminal mistakes as a younger person, don't bother to apply.

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