Rethinking Gays In The Military

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Gender, Military, Sexuality

Retired army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John M. Shalikashvili, writes an op-ed in the NY Times about don’t ask, don’t tell

When I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I supported the current policy because I believed that implementing a change in the rules at that time would have been too burdensome for our troops and commanders. I still believe that to have been true. The concern among many in the military was that given the longstanding view that homosexuality was incompatible with service, letting people who were openly gay serve would lower morale, harm recruitment and undermine unit cohesion. [...]

Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.

And then some pragmatic advice for the Dem Congress…

But if America is ready for a military policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation, the timing of the change should be carefully considered. As the 110th Congress opens for business, some of its most urgent priorities, like developing a more effective strategy in Iraq, share widespread support that spans political affiliations. Addressing such issues could help heal the divisions that cleave our country. Fighting early in this Congress to lift the ban on openly gay service members is not likely to add to that healing, and it risks alienating people whose support is needed to get this country on the right track.

Well said.

And by the way, do we really think we’ll be able to grow our forces in any type of substantial way without this policy change?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 and is filed under Gender, Military, Sexuality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Rethinking Gays In The Military”

  1. Jason Says:

    While I support a change of policy, and I hope the time is nearing where it will be accepted, your commentary on this op-ed strays off the mark.

    –”And by the way, do we really think we’ll be able to grow our forces in any type of substantial way without this policy change?”

    Come on now. While I fully support equal rights for all sexual orientations (including the option for military service), it is ridiculous to think that the number of gays joining the military will be greater than the number of (admittedly prejudiced) straight men who will refuse to join. To say that the loss is worth it for a fair and prejudice-free military program is arguable. But as a way to “grow our forces,” it makes no sense at all.

  2. Earl Says:

    Having spent almost a decade in the U.S. Military, all I can say is – it’s about time. This is not about incompatible military service; the ban has been more about the militant Christian right wanting to control people.

    Do I think we’ll be able to grow our forces without this change… not really.

  3. Don Jpmes Says:

    Who do hetrosexual males shower with? Lesbians? Females shower with male homosexuals. If you are ready for than open the doors. Until you are give them seperate uniforms and let then do what they do in the rest of society, or better yet, keep thiem out.

  4. JohnDoe Says:

    This general is getting his advice from his meeting with gay military men?

    -”gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.”

    Not a bright idea. Why don’t you ask their peers fool and get the straight answer. The moral in the military would go down considerably with many instances of gays getting pummeled.

    The current policy isn’t broke so don’t go trying to fix it, you’ll only screw things up. Once they are let in, it’ll be a hell of a time getting the queers out when the policy failed, and it will. The current policy isn’t broke so don’t go trying to fix it, you’ll only screw things up.

  5. El Says:

    Policy should have been changed years ago, for a very simple reason: closeted homosexuals are a security risk because they can more easily be blackmailed. Openly homosexual men and women are much less likely to be blackmailed than people whose military careers can come to a sudden dishonorable end if “exposed” (Obviously military personnel should be discrete no matter what their sexual persuasion, or risk being discharged for “conduct unbecoming an officer”.)

    Secondly, homosexuals are less likely to have spouses and children, therefore they are cheaper for the army employ — they need not be provided with family benefits or family housing. I find it appalling that good American men and women are forced to leave their families for long periods to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, they knew what they were signing up for and are willing to make the sacrifices, but their children certainly didn’t sign up for it!

    Lastly, instead of punishing people that are “different” due to the intolerance of others, when are we going to go straight to the source and start punishing intolerance?

  6. howard Says:

    I am a 74 year old Korean War veteran. Back then in the early ’50s, blacks couldn’t eat at white lunch counters, had separate water fountains, and sat in the back of the bus and other discriminatory practices. But in our barracks, they slept where ever, among the whites…and they fought shoulder to shoulder as trusted buddies. There is nothing to prove that gays in the military could not perform with distinction, if given the chance.

    Gay discrimination is based on the theory that all gays are only into sex with you, Mr. Straightman. If that theory were ascribed to male heterosexuals, then there would be no military.

    I have found that given the chance, people will strive and excel. Do you realize that gays are already flying our commercial aircraft, are chefs in the restaurants you patronize, they teach your children, and perform untold charitable events, just like you Mr. Straightman.

    This is the 21st century, and time to rethink past prejudices.

  7. Jeremy Says:

    To what John Doe wrote:
    “The current policy isn’t broke so don’t go trying to fix it”

    How can any well-educated person not see the blatant avoidance of equal rights that currently stands in the Armed Forces? Of course the policy is broken John Doe, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is telling the gay and lesbian community that because of their sexual orientation, they can’t be accepted into the military and they can not serve, unless they essentially pretend to be straight. It’s about time that this policy was thrown out, as its in clear violation of our Constitution, remember “All men/women are created equal?” That doesn’t exclude the gay population, and by denying their rights to join an organization in this country, no matter what the BS reason, we are denying the very rights this country stands for, freedom for all people.

  8. Mike Says:

    This would be long overdue, but this is soooo not going to happen anytime soon. I can’t see many gays wanting to risk their lives without the insurance that their loved ones will be taken care of if they should they perish overseas. Not a lot of motivation here. Private industry has way more benefits and a lot less risk.

  9. David Says:

    The military is, first and foremost, a functioning tool of American power and diplomacy to be used to secure our borders and fight wars as directed by the civilian leadership.

    Any action or change in policy should be done in a way which does not diminish our ability to do the former.

    We’re in the midst of multiple shooting wars. It’s probably not the right time to engage in social experimentation, no matter how noble the cause.

    A subtle change in policy could accomplish most of the goal “under the radar”: just stop believing or investigating reports of (otherwise non-criminal) homosexual activity. Save the big declarations for when the current conflict is less of an issue (preferably, when it’s over).

  10. James Says:

    As a response to what Mike said, I fail to see how gays are less likely to risk their lived without insurance than straight people. Sure, joining the military is a risk, but not any more so for gays than for straight people. There is no draft in the US at the moment, meaning that whoever finds private industry more lucrative can engage in that, regardless of sexual orientation.

  11. DosPeros Says:

    Homosexuals are allowed in the military…it is called the “Navy”.

  12. Johan Says:

    We have just reached a watermark the other day,3,000 U.S soldiers,have died,in Iraq.Out of that 3,000 I am sure at least some(probably a few hundred) of these men who came home in a bodybags were gay.If a person loves and volunteers for their country in the armed services,we should welcome them with open arms.I am sure most of the younger recruits would have no problem serving with a gay person.Many other countries have gays serving with no problems.It is just the old farts that have a problem with it(not all).And for the likes of people like Sean Hannity,Rush Limbaugh,Glenn Beck,etc.who would deny gays their right,they have no voice.They were all absent when they could have served.

  13. wj Says:

    Howard hit the crux of the issue: Essentially every argument against gays in the military (including all those about the impact on morale, and on the prejudices of the existing troops) could have been made with as much or more force about blacks at the time that President Truman ordered racial integration of the military. And may have been (I was too young to pay attention to such things at the time).

    So I don’t think there is, or likely will be, a “good time” to make the change. Just do it, and get on with life.

  14. Kasey Doshier Says:

    john doe says: “many instances of gays getting pummeled.”

    don’t you think many feel a sort of entitlement or even duty to prove a point physically because gays are supposed to keep quiet? whereas if gays were equal and it was a nonissue policy-wise, servicemen’s treatment of their gay peers may follow suit. not universally i’m sure, but i see it as a case of raising the bar and people will rise to meet it.
    military boys club or not, servicemen can’t avoid the realities of our society and shouldn’t be given excuses and policies that help them to.

    and re: to jason: “it is ridiculous to think that the number of gays joining the military will be greater than the number of (admittedly prejudiced) straight men who will refuse to join”

    that is absurd that people would refuse to join based on gays joining as well, but i’m sure that in some cases that happens. however, we can’t construct policies based of fear. look where that’s gotten us in the past 8 years.

  15. Around the web | Says:

    [...] Rethinking Gays In The Military [...]

  16. Steve Says:

    It’s been my experience that most—and I want to emphasize the word “most”—advocates of gays serving OPENLY in the military haven’t any military experience whatsoever upon which to base their stance. I read someone’s entry indicating a certain spike in anti-gay violence—this is a gross understatement. We all acknowledge that gays have certainly pulled their fair share of the military workload, but to suppose that everyone who looks upon members of their own gender as objects of sexual desire (c’mon people, let’s be honest…that’s what we’re talking about here) should make that orientation apparent to the overwhelming majority of others with no such orientation, in an environment where communal living (beds, showers, toilets) are the norm, is not looking at the issue realistically. European nations, where this arrangement is said to work, are…well, EUROPEAN. They look at most of our conservative philosophies (everything from being on time, to cheating spouses not being condoned as “normal”) as nothing short of bizarre, and to compare the two is, again, not being realistic. We need to stop comparing this to the desegration of the military and call it what it is: a misguided attempt to redefine military standards, good order and discipline.

  17. Alexis Says:

    JohnDoe Says:
    January 2nd, 2007 at 6:18 pm
    This general is getting his advice from his meeting with gay military men?
    -�gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.�
    Not a bright idea. Why don’t you ask their peers fool and get the straight answer. The moral in the military would go down considerably with many instances of gays getting pummeled.

    More than likely he did because in order for him to openly speak to gays they would have to be comfortable and not feel threatened in the work place. I would hang out fellow soldiers but was always concerned about being myself and fitting in not being me so I came out to a fellow senior… I was told O.K. and what? Everyone already knows and no one cares. They like me for me and think I’m a cool person. And it hasn;t stopped any of the guys from trying to get with me. But they know there boundries and even trust me around their wives. So HAHA Mr. John Doe

  18. Solatene Says:



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