Wednesday, February 3, 2010


There's no rational (ie non-religious) case to be made against same-sex marriage. On that, I'm sure we all agree. The central arguments -- definitional, hysterical (eg, it threatens "opposite" marriage), apocryphal -- or is it projectional? -- (next we'll be marrying dogs and cats) are so easily dismissible as to be laugh-provoking. (Except, of course, as they do actual harm to actual human beings, they aren't funny at all.)

On the other hand, the arguments against allowing gays openly to serve in the military at least deserve a look. Because whereas gay marriage doesn't impose anything on anyone who doesn't like it, military service does. There are, without doubt, soldiers who don't like the idea of serving with gays. Based on primal prejudice and misinformation to be sure (not to mention repressed concerns of their own sexuality!); but the feelings exist and need to be addressed in some way. Being against gay marriage is misguided at best; in fact, in the hearts of most opponents it's simply hateful. But being concerned about gays in the military is, on some level, rooted in real -- if destructive -- concerns.

As the subject of repealing DADT goes forward, there are some givens: right-wingers will dig in their heels, and reasonableness will be as absent from most of the political debate as hypocrisy will be ubiquitous. Soldiers will be heard from on both sides of the issue. And we will learn of many examples of gays serving honorably, bravely, with no problems until they were outed and discharged. Thousands of them. But we'll hear worries about "unit cohesion," implications (I'll be interested to see with what proof) that having gays and straights fighting side by side will somehow change the meaning of...(wait for it...) "got your back."

So, what are we to make of it all? What, for example, are we to make of the fact that in armies around the world, gays serve openly without problems? Some say, well, we're tougher we have a harder mission. Yet in Israel, whose military toughness isn't doubted even by its enemies, and whose mission is, perhaps, more literally to allow the survival of the state than anywhere in the world, gays have served openly for years? Answer: it's a big deal only if you make it one.

The soldiers who, in this era, object to serving with gays are not unlike those who, a generation ago, objected to serving with blacks. Now, it's as if there never was a problem. It's more common to see African-Americans in high rank in the military than in corporate America. Another thing: you can't serve with an African-American and not know s/he's black. But in the workplace, there's no reason why sexual orientation would even be visible. Inappropriate sexual behavior toward a co-worker is, should be, and always will be a prohibited and punishable act. To date, the transgressions that take up most space in the news are abuse of women soldiers by men.

Who represents more of a threat to the mission of the US military: gay people who are competent, skillful, good at what they do; or people who have reflexive hatred or fear of gays? Which can one imagine attacking or otherwise endangering a fellow soldier? The absence of which group would be less of a detriment? To me, it seems obvious.

Irony abounds. The military leaders whose judgment was once considered unassailable by our America-loving, tough-on-terror, militarily "strong" (except for the fact that most of them never served) neocons, are suddenly to be ignored, according to Republican leaders.

Did I already mention hypocrisy?

The issue of unit morale needs addressing. Hard to know how recruitment and retention would be affected, although there are precedents. From an above-linked article:

Polls of soldiers in the United Kingdom similarly found that as many as two-thirds of soldiers said they would consider leaving the service if gays were allowed in, but the British military reported that very few soldiers actually chose to depart when the ban was lifted in 2000. There was significant resistance among senior officers, while younger personnel tended to be more open to allowing gays to serve. (Emphasis mine: especially relevant since many point to the opinions of old admirals over here!)

It'd be funny -- in a good way -- wouldn't it, if after the ban on gays in the military is finally and inevitably lifted, it turns out to have been a non-issue. There's no doubt, though, that the process will bring out the worst in the worst of us. It already has.


  1. Whats really I-Ronic (Dontcha think?) is Your Gay-Friendly Party in Power has large majorities in both Houses of Congress, controls the White House for the last year, and "DADT" is still in effect...
    as is the DOMA, signed by that Evil Teabagger, Bill Clinton.
    I know, it's Bush/Chaney/Fox New's fault.


  2. Excellent insights, as usual Frank. So I guess you'd rather they tackled DADT before the economy and health care? I'll pass your view along next time I'm at the White House.


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