|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.|
Blackwell of Cleveland Heights, Ohio asks:
Why do there have to be any discussion or policies? Does your sexual orientation have anything to do with your patriotism? Why should this hinder a person from serving his or her country?
Angela, I could not say it better myself. There is no logical reason why our country should reject the service of patriotic men and women, or kick out those who are already trained and serving well, simply because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Opponents of service by known gay people often counter that the military excludes a number of groups of people, such as those with flat feet or various medical conditions. These categories are tied to job performance, however, while military leaders like General Colin Powell admit that sexual orientation is not.
The military now faces a recruiting and retention shortfall of crisis proportions. Yet, military leaders blithely continue to kick out ever-increasing numbers of people under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue." Many come out and are discharged as their only effective recourse to stop threats and other harassment. Harassment increased 120% in 1998 alone. Others are turned in by people they thought they could trust -- psychologists, doctors, best friends and even relatives -- or are outed by commanders who improperly seize their diaries, computer files and private correspondence. Leaders routinely look the other way while service members are hounded about their sexual orientation.
In SLDN's first five reports on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," we documented thousands of command violations of the current law, which promised to stop asking, pursuits and harassment against service members. Despite this, military leaders have held no one accountable.
The United States stands apart from the world in its exclusionary law, and the draconian way in which military leaders have chosen to enforce it. Other countries known for combat prowess, such as Israel, have long permitted known gay people to serve. Among NATO allies, only Turkey excludes gay people now that Britain has dropped its exclusionary policy. Who else besides the U.S. bans known gay people from serving? Iran, Iraq and Syria.
As citizens who enjoy the freedoms of our country, we should applaud all people who are moved by duty and patriotism to serve in the military - and let them perform their service without fear for their careers or their safety.
Sexual preference has nothing to do with patriotism. The military exists to defend the country and by law, the armed forces can recruit only those personnel it deems best able to contribute to a cohesive and quality force.
There is no constitutional right to serve in the military. The military has long discriminated based on age, education, citizenship, health, physical fitness, height, weight, marital status, criminal history and substance abuse.
In 1993, the Pentagon and Congress exhaustively studied the issue of homosexuals in the military. They passed, and President Clinton signed, a statute that codified the longstanding ban because Congress, for several reasons, was convinced that homosexuals should not serve because of risks associated with their behavior. These risks include the following: