Very often political institutions reflect the will of society and set the precedent for norms that will be expected of its members. The United States Military is still enforcing archaic policies which threaten to harm the principles our nation was founded upon. The principles of freedom and equality are those that every American holds closest to their heart, that is unless you are in the military and are gay. The issue of gays in the military has developed into a case of whether our country should discriminate against a group merely because of involuntary sexual orientation. Two persistent principles are evident within this topic: that homosexuals are ever present throughout all branches of the military and a persistent hostility against this group is in American society and the military. In order to effectively examine this topic the following concepts will be discussed: an analysis of the current Department Of Defense policy concerning gays, solutions to reduce homophobia in the military, a policy model concerning homosexuals in the military ( Lepicer 1-14 ).
Prior to the arrival of the Clinton Administration with its agenda to radically revise military policy regarding the acceptance and treatment of homosexuals, Department of Defense policy was well established and clear. Legal questions began to be raised in civilian courts challenging the military exclusion and discharge policies in the 1960's and 1970's. The services were forced to explain and clearly justify specific limits and procedures used in relation to service members claiming to be homosexual or convicted of such behavior. During the Carter Administration a clear policy was signed into law. It reads:
Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of
persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in such conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the Military Services to maintain discipline, good order, and morale: to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members; to ensure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and work under close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the Military Services: to maintain the public acceptability of military service; and to prevent breaches of security ( Lepicer ).
Everyone agrees that gays were already in the military, but gays want to serve their country out of the closet. This concept pitted the gay community against the traditionalists who want to keep them out. The result is a compromising "Don't ask / Don't Tell" policy which prevents recruiters from inquiring about an enlistees sexual preference. The purpose of the military is to kill people and complete the mission at hand. Therefore anything that hinders the military from fulfilling this role is a potential threat to national security and must be looked at in an objective manner. The military's attitude towards homosexuals dates back to the Revolutionary War when General George Washington approved the discharge and court martial of an officer for attempted sodomy. Every year more than 800 service members are separated from the military based on sexual orientation. The Department Of Defense current policy is both discriminatory and ineffective. Homosexuals should have the right to serve their country as long as their job performance is not affected by their private life. Currently the military does not actively seek out and prosecute heterosexual service members who engage in sodomy but they will go to great lenghts to investigate mere claims of homosexual conduct. Often history repeats itself and the integration of African Americans into the military was one which met great opposition but is now an accepted principle. We as a country can see the foolishness and downright prejudice that was involved in the opposition of integration of minorities into our military, one which in 20 years we may equate with the current arguments involving gays in the military ( Wornsop 195-212 , Schlueter 393-432).
In his article , "Not Asking or Telling: No remedy," in the March 25, 1995, edition of the National Journal, David Morrison suggests that President Clinton's policy of "Don't ask , Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" has done little to end the controversy. The new policy is nothing more than a reworded version of the old policy. The new policy forbids inquiries based on "rumor, suspicion, or capricious claims regarding a member's sexual orientation." But in reality this has not stopped some commanders. The Service Members Legal Defense Network cites these cases: a service member investigated after an anonymous phone call, and another investigated because he had taken notes for a class on homosexuality. These cases show clearly how military leaders blatantly violate both current policy and individual rights (Morrison 748-749).
Defense Department officials say that the policy appears to be working because the number of discharges is down. There appears to be a distinct conflict between the cases that are reported and the Pentagons statements that center around the premise that there have been no violations of the policy. In her book , Homosexuals And The Right To Serve, Major Melissa Wells-Petry discusses the military's objections to lifting the ban. One of the main issues is that of gender segregation. The author explains that gender segregation is based on two principles: " People have a preference for people of the opposite sex and they should be allowed to choose to whom they expose an aspect of their sexuality." Lifting the ban would expose the charade that their are no homosexuals in the military. The argument is often brought up that says the presence of homosexuals detracts from the military mission is present in both written policy and actual belief. In reality anyone engaging in any sexual activity in the military environment threatens the mission of the military. The distinction of homosexual activity has no validity or bearing on the truth of the matter. It is impossible to see how homosexuals can detract from the maintenance of good order when nearly 75% of those already in the military are never discovered. If a person causes a problem with order, morale or discipline they should be separated from service regardless of sexual orientation ( Wells, Davis 54-107).
The idea that homosexuals pose a security risk is clearly unfounded since in a House Of Representatives Committee on National Security report proves gays are less of a risk. Of the 117 reported espionage cases between 1945 and 1991 only 6 involved homosexuals. The key to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation in the military is to bring an end to homophobia or antigay bias. In the book After The Ball : How America Will Conquer It's Fear & Hatred Of Gays In The 90's, the authors explore the ways to help America accept homosexuals. The techniques proposed are desensitization, jamming, and conversion. Desensitization aims at attempting to lower the level of anti-gay rhetoric. If we can effectively integrate homosexuals in the military then the novelty of homosexuals will diminsh and so will the associated prejudice. Jamming is an aggressive and active approach which uses a psychological process that uses two competing theories that are associated. One example of jamming the military could use is sensitivity training which will both educate the ignorant individual and also get the individual to feel shame for having such an unsupported prejudice for an oppressed group. The concept of of conversion is actually changing ones views and beliefs. This idea is most effective when people are exposed to homosexuals in their everyday lives. If the military continues to create conditions which discourage an individual from openly declaring their homosexuality then prejudice will continue and the us vs. them mentality will flourish. If someone discovers a friend is homosexual but is still very much like themselves then the concept of homosexuality becomes irrelevant. When people have prejudice against a certain group they rationalize by saying how different they are from them. It is evident that the issues involved with lifting the ban on African Americans in the military has some very distinct similarities with the issue of homosexuals. Tim Mcfeeley , executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund states, "Homosexuals are being persecuted in the military for being different from the mainstream, just as blacks were maltreated in the 1940's and 50's" ( Duke A1, House Of Representatives 95-21).
From the Revolutionary War to present day homosexuals have served in the military with distinction and pride. Yet although many have died in defense of the principles upon which our nation was founded they are being denied the fundamental rights of liberty and equality. Thousands of members of our military have been denied their right to serve their country and a career in the military essentially because they are gay. In the process of instilling archaic principles upon the military our nation has compromised its combat effectiveness and undermined institutional integrity. In his speech announcing the " Don't ask Don't tell," policy President Clinton makes a very compelling argument against discrimination. Because the military " is an institution that embodies the best in America and must reflect the society in which it operates, it is also right for the military to make changes when the time for change is at hand. I strongly believe that the military , like our society, needs the talents of every person who wants to make a contribution..." Certainly the time for change is upon us. The military must stop discriminating based upon sexual orientation. If job performance is affected by any factor then the service member must be allowed to correct the deficiencies or be separated. But if the basis for investigation is mere suspicion or beliefs that such behavior may affect the organization this is not a valid principle. The military must not allow illogical prejudices to drive personnel policies. The growing number of military organizations and para- military organizations that accept openly gay individuals proves the Pentagons fears are unfounded. The Pentagon has stated that openly gay service members threaten morale and fighting effectiveness. A General Accounting Office review found that out of seventeen foreign military forces only four explicitly ban homosexuals from service. This shows America is in need of a policy change and it must be fair and succinct ( House Of Representatives ).
Many veterans and soldiers feel that even if the ban were lifted it would not improve conditions or increase acceptance levels of gays in the military. But lifting the ban would relieve the pressure on gay members which would translate into an increased proficiency of job performance. Lifting the ban would also allow law enforcement and investigory agencies to re-direct their resources toward criminal violations rather than enforcing morals upon the minority. Research indicates that in foreign countries that allow homosexuals to serve the number of openly gay individuals is quite small. The majority of the members were discrete and there were few problems caused by the presence of homosexual members. Very often the banning of a specific group causes members of society to hold irrational beliefs and then engage in violent activity against those classes of people they believe are a threat to the groups integrity. Heterosexuals are often more accepting of those with alternate lifestyles when this group is not banned by the predominant authority. Emphasis must be placed on behavior, conduct and work performance. Military leadership must reassure both the minority and the majority by supporting everyone's right to choose ( Lolorado C1 ).
Clearly the evidence supports the lifting of the gay ban in full. The military's discrimination of individual based on sexual orientation is not only morally wrong but collides with the principles our country was founded upon, equality and freedom. Our nation has learned important things from the integration of African Americans into our military. The success of both our nation and military depends upon the utilization of all of the resources that are available. America cannot compete effectively if it relies upon outdated prejudices which are completely without merit. Sexual orientation is a personal private issue and not one which compromises national security.
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