|GAYS IN THE MILITARY|
|What should the U.S. military policy be toward homosexuals? Co-executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Michelle Benecke and Robert Maginnis, senior director of national security and foreign affairs at the Family Research Council, take your questions.|
Lueke of San Diego, California asks:
Many say that the integration of gays into military units is the same as the integration of African Americans after World War II. Unfortunately, there's one difference: people learn to be prejudiced, but we are born sexual. Don't you think sexual tensions would be damaging to good order, discipline and unit cohesion if gays were allowed to serve openly?
Frank, other people have brought up similar concerns. When speaking about the privacy of soldiers, one United States Senator has said, "There is no more intimate relationship known to men.... They eat and sleep together. They use the same facilities day after day. They are compelled to stay together in the closest association...." A General Officer has said, "Experiments within the Army in the solution of social problems are fraught with danger to efficiency, discipline and morale." These are precisely the kind of statements some people are making about gays in the military. However, these statements were actually made by Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and General Omar Bradley who opposed President Truman's proposal to racially integrate the forces in the 1940s.
According to today's military leaders, our forces are better than ever. The same racially integrated forces that were predicted to crumble from a lack of unit cohesion have flourished instead. Racial integration taught the military that our troops will sleep, eat and live with each other because that is part of the job. There is no reason why today's soldiers and sailors can't do their jobs together with gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.
Strong leadership from the top is needed. Today's highly trained troops will follow the orders and examples of their leaders, including working and living with known gay service members. The untrue rhetoric and rationales used to justify racial segregation in the 40s should not be used to exclude gay Americans from our armed forces today.
The integration of homosexuals is a different sphere than the integration of African Americans. Comparing skin color - a benign, non-behavioral characteristic - with sexual preference, according to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, "is convenient but invalid." Skin color and physical characteristics cannot be changed, but individuals choose whether or not to act on their sexual inclinations. In fact, people can and do change their sexual preferences.
The appropriate analogy is not black/white but male/famale. The military does not require men and women to shower or to sleep together. In fact, the military has discovered that the lack of sexual privacy, as well as sex between male and female soldiers, undermines order, discipline, and morale. That is why the sexes are segregated in their living quarters. Most servicemembers of both sexes find being stripped of privacy before the opposite sex to be repugnant.
In the same way, most heterosexuals dislike being exposed to homosexuals of their own sex. If we respect women's need for privacy from men, then we ought to respect heterosexual's need for privacy with regard to homosexuals.