Gays in the Military
A hot topic in the news these days is whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Many issues have arisen from allowing or not allowing gays to serve openly. Those opposed are concerned that gays would cause a break down in unit cohesion, a rise in assaults or violence, a drop in recruitment or retention, and feel that since America is currently fighting two wars that right now is not a good time to implement a new policy when it is felt that the current one is working just fine. Numerous studies have been conducted on this issue. Through poll, surveys, observing other countries that allow gays to serve openly and even by checking history it is felt that this would not be the case. Given all the evidence that points to allowing gays to serve openly outweigh any negatives that would possibly come about. Gays make up a portion of key personnel that is sorely needed in this time of war especially with a all volunteer force. The fact that military personal are being lost due to this law not only is harmful to military it also wrong on that these gays are having their basic human rights violated by the very country they are trying to protect. This has been an issue within the military since the very beginnings of its establishment of this nation since “The discharge of military personnel for homosexual behavior dates from at least the continental army of the revolutionary period” (Rayside 258). The military had a strict no gays allowed to serve for many years and it wasn’t until former president Clinton raised the issue in his campaign for presidency in 1991 did it come onto the radar of the news and on the minds of the American people. He promised to fight to have it so gays could serve in the armed forces of the United States. When he was elected president he set out to change things. Then President made a effort to change the policy but “Clinton was persuaded by the military, mobilized by Chief of Staff Colin Powell, not to fulfill his campaign promise to allow gays and leasbians to serve openly” (Pencak 178). He was unable to change the policy drastically and had to settle for a compromise with the military and congress. This is where we got the still standing don’t ask don’t tell policy. This new law allowed gays to serve but they were required to keep their sexual orientation private and by going public with it would end in discharge from the service. The new policy also covered any homosexual actions stating that “A service member who engages in, attempts to engage in, or solicits a homosexual act is to be discharged, unless he can prove that such an act was an aberration and is unlikely to recur” (Hillman 264). If they were to state that they were gays or attempt to marry someone of the same sex this would too lead to termination.
The phrase “don’t ask don’t tell” comes from the fact that no one will ever ask if you are gays; as the military used to screen potential future military members by asking them before they joined. The don’t ask tell part comes from the fact that a gay service member must not tell anyone that they are homosexual. Later “don’t pursue” would added to it, meaning that the military would not pursue a suspected gay member as long as they didn’t tell. This was established out of fear that people would conduct “witch hunts” for gay members.
Since the 1980s over 32,000 active duty members have been discharged for being gay. This is a large percent of people who were willing to serve but through no fault of their own we told they could not and were sent on their way. That is 32,000 already fully trained personnel that had to be replaced costing the country millions of dollars. There had been cases were people with key jobs being discharged as in a few Arabic translators be discharge when as of now they are in great demand. Discharging these personal is non sense. Not only is it violating their rights, “U.S. law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, or gender with regard to the rights of citizenship, the military maintains policies that are opposed to this most-basic American ideal” but it is putting this country and other service members at risk cause translators are a key competent of fighting the war on terror (Issit 4). How can a military succeed in winning the hearts and minds of people they cannot even talk with?
The number of service members discharged each year in the United States is approximately 1,000-1,200. All of which are needed to be replaced with new people who require training. Losing the experience of those who were serving longer period of times is detrimental to the military because they possess the knowledge and skills required to accomplish the mission and have the ability to pass they knowledge on to new personnel. The amount of money required to replace them is enough that any tax paying American would be upset about. There are many reasons for someone to be discharged, from drug use to medical reasons. By changing this law the country would be losing a third less personnel each year.
The American public is split on the issue. With about 60% saying that gays should be allowed to serve and 40% feeling they should be able to serve openly. A service wide survey was conducted asking the opinions of those who would be serving side by side with gays. The views of current service member varied much like that of American civilians. But they had reason for their concern when it came to those who opposed it. They were concerns about privacy issues. They were not comfortable with living with a known homosexual. The military does not allow males and females to share a room and there is concern having a same sex and gays living together. This might lead to a change in housing policy and bathroom faculties in having to separate men and women and gay men and lesbian women. This would lead to having to make new restrooms and building of new living quarters for gays. With another concern being the effect on Unit cohesion which can be broken down in two parts; task cohesion and social cohesion. Task cohesion referring to the ability to work together effectively in order to accomplish a mission and social cohesion referring to the emotional bonds and trust among unit members (US Government, DoD 102). The military is worried that gays would become a distraction for straights and this would disrupt the comradely between troops, all of which is very important in a wartime setting “because soldiers must withstand the tremendous emotional strain of seeing many of their friends brutally killed by the enemy” (Wilson 2). There are also religious and moral issues that have been brought up. The fact is that most religions say the homosexuality is wrong and by making personnel who are religious serve with gays infringes on the religious beliefs and the right to religious freedom in the military. Some feel that being gay is just wrong and do no want to be force to work alongside or live with someone of is known to be gay. Some also believe that don’t ask don’t tell law is working just fine and that it should just stay that way feeling that gays can serve but they just have to keep their sexuality to themselves. The same people feel that right now is not the best time to change the policy. Service member have a lot on their plates right now fighting two wars it that a change in the don’t ask don’t tell policy right now is just not the time to do so. There are some who are concerned that if gays were to serve openly then that would result in unwanted sexual advances and assaults. There is objection to gays showing public displays of affection. And that a gays flamboyant behavior would be a distraction. The possibility of a rise in HIV is of concern too. There is a belief that AIDS is a running epidemic in the gay community and by allowing those to serve would lead to a increase in the HIV cases in the services. Marriage is another issue in that where would the money come from to pay for all the new cases of same sex marriages because married members receive benefits for the spouses and are paid more too. Some members feel that gays would become a protected class and in return would be forced to acknowledge gay pride week and be forced to mingle with them outside of work. With the fear that if they chose no too there would be displiniary actions placed against them. Other feel that the military is the last moral institution in America and feel that allowing gays to serve would destroy that.
There are many service members that feel that gays should be allowed to serve openly and the have reasons for their support of the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell policy. Many know that there already are gays serving and by allowing them to acknowledge their sexual orientation is not going to change anything. There is a feeling that as long as the gay service member can do their job then there is no reason they cannot serve. A person in America has the right to be who they are and by discharging a gay person who only wants to fight and protect the country that provides them that right is wrong. Any American regardless of sexual orientation should be allowed to sever their country. In given that this is a time of war the military needs every service member it can get. Since it is an all volunteer force they should allow anyone who wants to volunteer serve. The military is behind the times when is comes to its policy of homosexuals. It is the only institution that is discriminating openly against gays. It is illegal to fire a person from their jobs for being gays any where else they could be working and the military should be no different. Upon looking at the results of other militaries allowing gays to serve it is scene that it really has no effect on anything what so ever. So there is no reason not to believe that the some non-event would happen in the United States military too. If one is too look on when the military started to allow blacks and white to sever together as well as men and women it is seen that this was not harmful, but actually beneficial to the military as a whole. It is a brden to gays in the military to have to hide their homosexuality and that if there was a repeal to this law then that would liberate them from the fear of discharge. It is not that gays want to be able to tell everyone that they are gay but more that they won’t be afraid of losing their job if it were found out. “Sexual harassment regulations and sensitivity training would need to be updated, and guidance from leadership would be necessary” if this transition to a openly gay military is to be done (Prakash 92).
History is said to repeat itself and if that is the case then there should be no problems associated with the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Prior to 1953 blacks were not allowed to serve in the same unit as whites. There are similarities to be found when comparing concerns for when the racial integration of African-Americans was underway and the integration of homosexuals today in that “military leaders predicted disastrous consequences for unit cohesion, discipline, troop morale, and the achievement of military goals” (Knapp 239). Racial integration was a much bigger deal to the country than that of the integration of gays today. We can see that once racial integration was implemented that it turned out just fine. But it must be acknowledged that blacks are not gays so it won’t be exactly the same type of movement. The integration of women into the military also came out in positive terms. Though gender integration was slower than that of blacks, it is fully integrated today. Today women and blacks make up a sizable portion of the military and without their service the military would not as strong as it is today. Women and African-Americans have succeeded in the U.S. military so there is no reason to believe that gays and lesbians cannot do the same.
Many other nations’ military allow gays to openly serve and they experienced few if any problems because of it. It is such a non existent problem that it is considered a non-issue to most. The major militaries to open to gays are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Israel. When these countries lifted their bans on gays in their militaries they noticed that nothing changed. In a official report released by the Canadian government it was stated that “Despite all the anxiety that existed through the late 80’s into the early 90’s about the change in policy, here’s what the indicators show—no effect” (Belkin 108). It was thought that maybe a mass coming out would happen but it didn’t. Most still chose to keep their sexual orientation a private matter and only disclosed it to certain people, much like gays in the corporate world or anywhere else for that matter. The repeal is more for gays not to be discharged or fear being discharged for being gay and less for them to be able to go around and tell everyone that they are gay. There were no noticeable changes to recruiting numbers of the number of people choosing to remain in the military as a result of the lift ban on gays. The United Kingdom show no increase in same sex harassment and most countries commented that harassment die to gender integration was far more pronounced then harassment die to sexual orientation (US Government, DoD 92). This shows one that there is no reason that the integration of gays into the U.S. military will be difficult for its service members to adapt to. It will surely be a non-issue here itself.
When looking at the issue of integrating gays into other organizations it is seen that many on the same things occurred that happened in the militaries that did the same. In 1998 an Executive Order was established in the prohibition of discrimination based on the sexual orientation for civilian employees in all Federal agencies. Many states have done the same with state organizations. It is to be noted that employees of these institutions reported that having day and lesbian personnel among their ranks has had no effect on their organization’s performance (US Government, DoD 94). It was found that in some cases allowing gays to be open about their sexual orientation actually improved their performance because now they were not worried about someone finding out they were gay and we able to put more focus on their work. When looking at the issue of privacy that was of a concern to some service members it was seen that in these organizations there was no need for additional accommodations for gays and lesbians. They also say the same thing when it came to gays publically announcing their homosexuality. It was found that none really chose to come out to everybody but instead only to certain people. And as far as service member worrying about the “flamboyant behavior” one might witness in the military by a gay is just not the case in the corporate world. Gays are very well aware of the professionalism associated with a Federal or State job and surely would be the case for any gay military member and would not act in such a way.
There are many sides to this debate and given the concerns of each side it should be looked at carefully. When one does observe each side they can see that the concerns of those opposed to the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell are trivial and based on stereotypes and should not be enough to stop and any American from serving their country. The loss of personnel is unacceptable when their service is needed the most in these times of war. When seeing how other militaries favored with their lifting of bans on gays it can be seen that it was so little a problem and should be the case here. Today’s troops do have a lot going on with fighting two wars and don’t need another thing on their plate, but they do need every helping hand they can get. It most likely would be the case that if repealed many troops would not disclose their sexual orientation so much would not change since a lot of troops know that they are already serving along side gays and lesbians. When weighing the pros and cons of this issue one shouldn’t be able to infringe on a American’s desire to serve their country based on their sexual orientation. It be great if these brave gay and lesbian women didn’t have to worry about their military careers coming to an end of they were or someone were to disclose their sexual orientation that way they would be able to fully concentrate on their mission.