Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gays in the military

It was very nice to open my newspaper this morning and see that my congressman, Rep. Jim Kolbe, is one of 72 co-sponsors, including only two other Republicans, of legislation to repeal the ban on openly gay soldiers in the military. Shouldn't be surprising since Kolbe is himself gay, but I've never known him to vote based on his own sexual orientation. As a moderate Republican, he has in the past both angered and pleased GLBT activists with his positions on various issues.

Motivating Kolbe, according to spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer, is his opposition to "discrimination of any sort."

I've never understood the ban on gays in the military and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, while a tiny step forward from the outright ban that preceded it, never made any sense. Not that anyone, gay or straight, should be giving lurid details of their sex life in the workplace, even if the workplace is the military, but having to keep important parts of your life a secret, like who your spouse and family are, is just ludicrous. And exactly what harm do they think gay soldiers will cause? Morale? Well, they said that about black soldiers serving with whites, too, but we got over that. Worry about getting unwelcome advances? Welcome to the world of women in the military. They don't kick all straight men out assuming they're going to hit on women; they address the ones (though not as well as we should, frankly) that actually cause problems. The same standard should be applied to gays and lesbians. If other military personnel are uncomfortable because they might be the recipient of unwelcome advances, they need to get over themselves.

As a culture, we need to get over our obsession with sex and with the idea that just because I'm standing next to someone who happens to be attracted to people of my gender doesn't mean they're going to hit on me. There should be an expectation that everyone will behave appropriately in the workplace and consequences for anyone who doesn't.

Besides, the military can ill afford to kick out people who not only want to serve but are doing a good job at it. Since "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was enacted, a staggering 10,000 men and women have been discharged because of their sexual orientation. We're at war, recruitment is down and the military is having to keep people past their original commitment, sometimes against their wishes. Can we really afford to lose 10,000 personnel over prejudice and fear?

Here's hoping this long overdue bill becomes law.


At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was really angry when I read that several (a few dozen?) highly specialized Arabic linguists were kicked out for being gay.


At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that during times of war a stop-loss meausre is instituted, so many discharges are stopped in process, including those discharges for being gay.

In other words, we're good enough to die for our country but not good enough to serve it on a regular basis.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

I knew about stop-loss, but I assumed it meant regular discharges due to the service term being up. Do they really stop all discharges? And if they are stopping those for being gay, then what does that say about the "harm" gays cause? I mean, if someone is really causing great harm to the armed forces, wouldn't you want them out even more during a time of war?

At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, it appears I was mistaken...

According to http://www.equality.org.za/news/2003/01/10marine.php the current stop-loss orders exclude gays. However, the Persian Gulf war stop-loss did include gays. Sorry for the wrong info I posted.


At 5:40 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

At least that's consistent. Stupid to let otherwise good soldiers go in a time of war when we're having trouble maintaining an all-volunteer force, but consistent.


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