Equality in the Army

The armed forces have put gay rights on the back burner.

President Obama has done a lot of things since he’s been in office and has reversed a lot of wrongs that occurred during the past eight years. He has shut down Guantanamo Bay, overturned a policy that prevented aid from getting to countries that allowed abortions, and allowed for an increase in stem cell research. These are all excellent steps in the right direction, but I am disappointed to see the president not coming through on another very important issue: gay rights. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently has made very troubling statements about the progress of the ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” According to a Pentagon spokeswoman, Gates and Obama have had only “one brief conversation” about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “I think the president and I feel like we’ve got a lot on our plates right now,” Gates said. “Let’s push that one down the road a little bit.” Now I understand there are some very important issues at hand. Everything from the economy to fighting two wars and wondering about what Michelle Obama will wear next, so it is very understandable when the president says he is putting discrimination on the back burner because there are more pressing issues at hand. Wait, what? This is ridiculous. This policy, which surprisingly enough occurred with President Clinton in office (apparently he liked women more than he liked gay rights), is just wrong. The policy does not allow anyone who “demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” to serve in the military, because it “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” It says only a certain group of people are good enough to serve their country. It states homosexuals are not moral, do not display “good order and discipline,” and they would destroy our military. It is institutionalized homophobia. It is an irrational fear. If you want to serve your country and fight for your freedom as an American, you have to change your agency and oppress yourself. If you don’t then you are not good enough, not American enough, to serve. The biggest argument in favor of the policy is the issue of unit cohesion. A letter signed by more than 1,000 retired military personnel stated repealing the policy “would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.” Let me try to follow their logic. They are trying to say they are too homophobic to overturn a homophobic law? They are saying because the military is filled with too many people who don’t like homosexuals, it is necessary to keep them out. That is like saying the American public had too many racists, therefore we should not have ended slavery or passed the Civil Rights Act. On top of that, they are just wrong. A 2006 Zogby poll found that more than 65 percent of members serving in the armed forces found the presence of homosexuals had no impact on their morale or unit cohesion, and in fact a small percentage found it had a positive impact. The same poll found 75 percent of respondents said they already know for certain there are at least one or two homosexuals serving in their unit. Other top military personnel have criticized the policy. Citing evidence that almost 65,000 individuals are homosexual and are currently serving and more than a million homosexuals are veterans, General John Shalikashvili, former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said homosexuals are now accepted by their peers and the proponents of the policy are in the old way of thinking. This is according to a New York Times article. Also, According to a Government Accountability Office report, the policy has cost the military almost $100 million in recruiting costs because they have to replace the 12,000 people they have discharged. Proponents of the policy are past their time. This is a new society of acceptance and tolerance. The question is now, will our president have the political will to actually take action and end this open discrimination? This column originally appeared in the Texas Tech Daily Toreador. Please send letters and comments to [email protected]