Head To Head: Is The Obama Administration’s Repeal Of DADT Justified And Wise During Wartime?

This week’s Head to Head examines the following question: Is the Obama Administration’s changing of policy of to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military both justified and wise during wartime?

This cage match pits the Council’s Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye, making the case for the Obama Administration’s new policy versus Tom White of Virginia Right!, who will defend the opposing view:

Tom White: Don’t ask, Don’t Tell was put into place by the Clinton Administration as a compromise between those who wished to ban homosexuals and those who wanted to allow them to serve. As a Navy Veteran who served in the 1970’s – prior to DADT, I believed the Clinton compromise to be a fair one. In fact, during my military service, that is essentially the way things were handled. I served with sailors who were most likely gay, but the issue was never discussed. We just did our jobs.

In considering my position to allowing homosexuals to openly serve, I have taken the emotional and moral component to the argument out and considered only facts. And the issue of homosexuality is quite different in civilian and military life. My opinion on gay and lesbian issues in civilian life is that it is none of my business what two consenting adults do. My moral beliefs guide my life, and I pass them on to my children. But I do not wish to impose my beliefs on others. In the military, however, things are quite different. And while many argue that openly serving is analogous to allowing blacks or women to serve, I see it as quite different. Race and gender (sex) are physical characteristics. Race has absolutely no bearing on one’s ability to serve and while accommodations are necessary for sex, sexuality is another matter. It is a behavior. Openly serving as a gay or lesbian allows one’s military service to be defined by their sexual behavior. The task of the military is not to foster individuality as defined by one’s behavior, but rather to defend the United States. Anything beyond that is irrelevant.

Gays are allowed to serve under DADT, they are just limited in what behaviors are permitted, as are all members of the Armed Forces. Officers may not have “relations” with enlisted persons regardless of sex. Married persons caught having affairs are punished, especially those with access to classified material. So telling military personnel when and with whom they can have sexual relations has always been policy under the UCMJ. And the argument that not allowing homosexuals to “openly” serve is somehow discriminatory is a spurious one. The reasoning behind this argument is that if a heterosexual person is allowed to fraternize with someone of the opposite sex, homosexuals should be allowed to do the same with someone of the same sex. What gay’s want is not equality, they already are allowed to fraternize with the opposite sex (with uniform restrictions). What they want is essentially separate but “equivalent”. A “special” set of rules to accommodate their behavior.

And what does “openly serve” actually mean? Certainly not open sexual acts! I would rather imagine that it would mean Public Displays of Affection. When a ship comes in or a loved one arrives at an airport after a long deployment, the tears, kisses and other PDA’s between husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends are touching moments. So, the whole issue boils down to Gus and Charlie being able to give one another a big, wet kiss on the Navy Pier or Sally and Pam doing the same at an airport. Openly and in public. And there is also a financial consideration. There is a reason for the military to encourage heterosexual relationships and all the spousal benefit expenses that comes with it: procreation. The continuation of the human race. Homosexual relationships and the financial costs associated with them will not produce the next generation of soldiers and sailors. Only “entitled” dependents.

Dave Schuler:The purpose of the U. S. military is to defend the United States, its people, and its interests. In order to do this the military must uphold the values of the United States to the extent that is consistent with maintaining fitness and morale.

Being openly homosexual is legal in all fifty states, in all U. S. territories, and in the District of Columbia. However, being openly homosexual is grounds
for dismissal from military service. While that discrepancy may once have been necessary to maintain fitness and morale it is no longer the case.

Evidence to that effect is overwhelming. The American Psychological Association has stated:

Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention (Belkin, 2003; Belkin & Bateman, 2003; Herek, Jobe, & Carney, 1996; MacCoun, 1996; National Defense Research Institute, 1993).

Comparative data from foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments show that when lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly there is no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness (Belkin & McNichol, 2000–2001; Gade, Segal, & Johnson, 1996; Koegel, 1996).

When openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces (Cammermeyer v. Aspin, 1994; Watkins v. United States Army, 1989/1990), there has been no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness.

The U.S. military is capable of integrating members of groups historically excluded from its ranks, as demonstrated by its success in reducing both racial and gender discrimination (Binkin & Bach, 1977; Binkin, Eitelberg, Schexnider, & Smith, 1982; Kauth & Landis, 1996; Landis, Hope, & Day, 1984; Thomas & Thomas, 1996).

Evidence to the contrary is scanty or nonexistent, consisting mostly of testimonials, the weakest form of evidence.

The position of the American Psychological Association has been affirmed by the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, and the American Nursing Association, among other organizations.

Far from being necessary to maintain fitness and morale, preserving “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may actually be injure fitness and degrading morale.

There are approximately 65,000 homosexual servicemen and servicewomen presently serving in the U. S. military. These servicemen and servicewomen are subject to a hazard that their heterosexual compatriots are not: at any time they may be “outed”, although nominally for the crime of being homosexual but possibly for reasons of jealousy or animus. This threat is undoubtedly a deterrent to homosexual Americans who otherwise might elect to serve in the military.

The U. S. military is not a monastic order, a Praetorian Guard, or other distinct class or caste. It represents the interests and values of the United States and to that end homosexual Americans should be allowed to serve as their heterosexual brothers and sisters do without the sword of their sexual orientation dangling over their heads. Congress acted rightly in enacting the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and President Obama acted rightly in signing into law.

Tom White:The fact that homosexuality is legal in 50 states has no bearing on Military life. Upon entering the military, you agree to abide by an entirely different set of rules and guidelines. Many of the liberties enjoyed by civilians are non-existent for soldiers and sailors. You are essentially Government Property subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (in addition to all Civilian Laws). You are told what to eat, when to eat, sleep and work. Your hair and clothes must comply with regulations. There are minimum requirements for fitness – weight and body mass index – and you may even be subjected to disciplinary action for being sunburned at the beach. You are part of a machine and all parts must be interchangeable.

How well someone is able to serve is not related to their sexual preference. The danger of allowing a behavior to become accepted is obvious and far reaching. If military personnel are allowed to express individual behavior, where do we draw the line? Is unit discipline even possible with everyone allowed to be different? When the Uniformed Services are no longer uniform, but rather a collection of individuals, each allowed to act in accordance with their own chosen individualism, it is no longer possible to maintain either unit cohesion or discipline.

Homosexuality is a behavior. In our society, once the door is opened permitting one behavior, others will follow. They always do. And while there have been polls and studies on various aspects attempting to refute arguments that unit effectiveness, cohesion, moral and retention, and other studies pointed out for police and fire units, not a single study has indicated that there would be any improvement whatsoever. And while, as pointed out in the opening remarks of my esteemed colleague, there is no “evidence” of disruption, Dave admits that there is evidence, no matter how weak, that the possibility of harm to combat readiness does exist:

“Evidence to the contrary is scanty or nonexistent, consisting mostly of testimonials, the weakest form of evidence.”

The two most compelling arguments for leaving DADT in place are that

1) There has never been a single claim that the military will see any benefit from allowing homosexuals to openly act like homosexuals (whatever that actually entails)
2) Uniformity and unity are the goals of any effective military unit. Personal behavior, individualism and diversity are always disruptive in combat units.

Civilian uniformed services like fire and police are not analogous to combat units. Policemen and Firemen may spend a few days at a time as a unit at most, where military deployments mandate months at a time with no true “off duty” time. You simply don’t get to go home after a shift in a War Zone.

Still, DADT allows for “off duty” individualism if one so desires. Or any other legal behaviors one might wish to engage in. It is the most permissive policy possible without making a behavior a new right.

Dave Schuler:

Tom’s characterization of the treatment of sexual conduct under the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a good one with one omission but it’s a significant omission.
Under the UCMJ Section 143 individuals serving in the military may be subject to dismissal if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) That the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person;

(2) That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and

(3) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Under DADT homosexuals serving in military may be subject to dismissal whether the individual had sexual intercourse or not, whether either of the individuals was married or not, and whether the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or not. Mere sexual orientation is enough.

As mentioned in my argument this is a distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals unsupported by the evidence and which, indeed, may itself be
prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces:

A number of studies indicate that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals experience greater incidents of verbal and physical abuse as well as greater feelings of social exclusion than heterosexuals. The problem with “don’t ask, don’t tell” and other discriminatory policies is that they provide institutional grounds for prejudicial beliefs regarding sexual orientation.

In public polls, many American will express not having negative views towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people. However, if there is a powerful institution (i.e., the military) that says it is okay for heterosexuals to be open about their orientation, but not okay for anyone else, this sends a message that there is something inherently wrong with those who are not heterosexual. This in itself leads to added stress for non-heterosexual soldiers (and likely civilians as well). Also, this discriminatory policy at some level, even if not explicitly, affirms the mistreatment of these individuals. That is, this policy suggests that non-heterosexuals have something they should hide and we all know if you have to hide something from others it is typically because it is undesirable or morally questionable. However, this forced secrecy does not appear to work as many soldiers report that it is well known in a unit who is homosexual or bisexual. If this is true, then the policy does not do what it was intended to do but instead tells non-heterosexuals that they have something they should hide and tells everyone else that there is something wrong with these individuals. All this does then is create distress and potentially compromise the mental health of gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers who are already facing enough stress in a warzone.

Tom says:

The fact that homosexuality is legal in 50 states has no bearing on Military life.

This is untrue. Since homosexuality is legal throughout the United States, it cannot be the case that homosexuality as such brings discredit upon the armed forces. That being the case, in the absence of compelling evidence that homosexuality as such is prejudicial to good order and discipline, and in the presence of evidence that continuing DADT is, in fact, so prejudicial, continuing DADT cannot be supported.

Repealing DADT is not about giving homosexual servicemen and servicewomen special status. It is about treating them according to their behavior rather than who they are just as their their heterosexual compatriots are as is the case under DADT.

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