About gays in the military, I humbly submit my opinion… From the perspective of a former grunt, there are three problems that I see.
- It is illegal. Bush is right about that. I don’t agree that changing a demonstrably biased law is actually creating a special right, as the same thing had to be done for black soldiers and women, but c’est la vie.
According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) it is illegal to be gay / lesbian / bisexual whilst serving in the military on active duty. Don’t ask don’t tell was a compromise forced on the Joint Chiefs during Clinton’s first term that would not result in a change in the UCMJ. I was there in the AF then, and nobody in the forces, gay or straight, liked it.
The gay folks rightly hated it because DADT was a pussy half-assed gesture that was almost immediately ignored and lots of gay folks misunderstood that it meant “it’s OK to be gay” when in fact it meant “If you ever show us you’re gay we’re gonna spank you for it”. DADT resulted in a hell of a lot of discharges under less-than-honorable conditions in the 90’s. It was also bullshit, because in the rampant homophobia of the US military when I was there, being gay was not quite a death sentence but was definitely a sure-fire way to get your ass beat on a regular basis by your fellow soldiers.
The straight folks didn’t like it, because now there was this possibility that you couldn’t confirm or deny that the guy or girl sharing the shower / trench / foxhole / tank / aircraft / missile silo / aircraft bunker with you was a fruitcake and couldn’t be trusted when you slept to not molest you (us straight folks all of 19 being so tolerant and sensible and all). After all, what our bunkmates told us must be true, right? And the jokes our officers told from time to time must be true, right?
- It will require changing a very real and very steadfast social and cultural system within the military to allow gays to serve openly, unless the military has become hugely more open and tolerant since I left active duty in 1994 and the Guard in 1998. I don’t really think this has happened.
So if you want to change it, some pussy-assed thing like DADT is less than useless, it’s merely a political sop to a particular constituency, and everyone in the military knew that at all ranks. You have to order the change to happen, from the top, and pound it down through the ranks, just like the integration of African Americans and women, and the forced removal of drug use in all ranks of the military. If it’s ever gonna happen, it’s gonna be tough, bloody, and a lot of chaff and even some wheat will have to be dumped by the wayside in the pursuit of progress.
For my 2p, neither Kerry nor Bush is ever gonna have that much guts to stick this through, and to be honest, I think homosexuals in the military are enough of a minority that the most that will ever happen will be forced legal tolerance, but not acceptance. It’s not a big enough issue, like blacks (some 40% of the military overall), women (30%), or drug use (which was such a rampant problem that officers wouldn’t go into enlisted barracks in the 70s or 80s without sidearms and armed guards on base). It just doesn’t have that much heat attached to it as an issue.
- Getting a bunch of trained killers to act nice and supportive of someone’s sexual identity is not so easy as it seems, and sometimes runs contrary to being trained killers at all. Face it, 19 year olds, overseas, “killing people and dropping bombs on cities,” don’t give a rat fuck about being politically correct, and to be perfectly honest, I kinda like it that way. I don’t want them nice - I want them so damn mean that they can all come home alive, after doing their job. Sensitivity training and small arms combat don’t work together.
BTW - before anoyone starts baying for my blood as a homophobe, I am just doing my best to tell it like it is. I have changed in my mindset dramatically since my time in the military, and don’t feel the same way I did then - I now know, without a doubt, that there is no real reason why homosexuals could not (and have not, for that matter) served with honor, distinction, and heroism, as well as I know for a fact that at least two of the guys and one of the girls I served with were homosexuals and did their jobs just fine when I knew them but got booted out later for being gay. But I do remember how I felt, and would be remiss to not be honest about how others in my situation felt.