|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.|
H. Edgington of Enterprise, Alabama asks:
I served in three branches of the combat arms, both as an Enlisted Soldier and Officer, from 1971 to 1993. Our mission was to engage with and destroy the enemy. There is no I, me, or myself. There is only the mission; surviving each day hour by hour. Any distraction, instigated by sex --whether gender or orientation based -- could be fatal. Don't you think allowing gays to serve openly would cause such a distraction?
First, James, let me thank you for your service and sacrifices on behalf of our country. Having commanded a battery in a combat arms branch of service, I appreciate your concern to put the mission first. Permitting known gay people to serve does not cause a fatal distraction to the mission.
Numerous combat veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam who have served
with known gay people have told SLDN that what counts is a person's
ability and dedication to their buddies in time of war, not their sexual
orientation. Even General Colin Powell, who opposes military service
by known gay people, conceded in testimony before Congress in 1993 that
gay people are good soldiers. The Pentagon's own report on the subject
has found that gay people are highly motivated to fit into the military
environment and to become a part of the team. RAND, National Defense
Research Institute, Sexual Orientation and U.S Military Personnel Policy:
Options and Assessment 321 (1993).
If it were true that gay people undermined the mission, then we would expect to see increased gay discharges from our military during wartime. As Larry Korb and Coit Blacker recently pointed out in a New York Times op-ed, however, precisely the opposite is true. The Navy, for example, discharged only 483 gay men and lesbians - approximately half its annual average - in 1950, at the height of the Korean War, and 461 - about half its average - in 1970, during the Vietnam War. During the Gulf War, the military issued a "stop-loss" order preventing discharges of gay service members until after the fighting was over. Known gay people served, and served well, in each of these situations. They have also served in the militaries of other countries, as described in question two, above.
An example of the real danger to mission accomplishment was revealed recently during the legal proceedings against PVT Calvin Glover, who was convicted in December of bludgeoning PFC Barry Winchell to death in an anti-gay hate crime last summer at Fort Campbell. Every soldier and leader who testified at Glover's court-martial stated that they would go to combat with Winchell without hesitation, even knowing the rumors about his sexual orientation. All testified that Winchell was a superb soldier. All testified that Private Glover -- the man who murdered PFC Winchell -- destroyed their unit's discipline, morale and ability to perform its mission. Who can we count on to carry out the mission? Men like Private Glover, or men like PFC Winchell?
Decisions about who should serve must be based on military readiness. More than 200 years of empirical experience has conclusively demonstrated that "allowing gays to serve openly would cause such a distraction."
In 1993, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I have experienced the fact that the introduction of an open homosexual into a small unit immediately polarizes that unit and destroys the very bonding that is so important for the unit's survival in time of war." Military experts like Schwarzkopf convinced Congress to codify the longstanding homosexual ban.