Guest Blogger

A Milestone for Gays in the Military?

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 22, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Dixon Osburn, Don't Ask Don't Tell, gays in the military, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, SLDN

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Dixon Osburn is Co-founder and former Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

DixonOsburn.jpgThe House Armed Services Committee is set this Wednesday to hold the first hearing on lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the military since Don't Ask, Don't Tell was enacted into law in 1993. The hearing comes as new support for repeal is emerging.

A new Washington Post/ABC poll this week found that 50% of veterans agree that gays should serve openly, up dramatically from a 2007 Zogby poll in which 28% agreed, and a 1993 poll done by military sociologist Charlie Moskos in which only 13% of service members agreed that gays should serve openly.

The Post/ABC poll also found that 75% of the general public supports gays serving openly, including significant majorities of conservatives, evangelicals and Catholics, up from 44% of the general public in 1993.

Two weeks ago, fifty-two retired generals and admirals signed a statement calling for repeal of the military's ban on lesbians, gays and bisexuals, joining ten others who have called for repeal including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, and former NATO Commander, General Wesley Clark.

On the other hand, General Colin Powell and former Senator Sam Nunn, who both led the opposition to ending the gay ban in 1993, have recently said that, while they believe it is time for Congress to review the efficacy of the current law, they are not yet ready to endorse repeal.

The test of whether the hearing on gays in the military this week is successful is whether Members of Congress fairly and objectively probe the effect of the ban on military readiness, especially as the United States faces a military stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are some of the questions the committee should address.

What is the evidence that gays serving openly undermines unit cohesion? That question was never asked in 1993. Many witnesses gave their opinion that it would be a problem, but no one, including General Powell, backed up their personal opinion with any data.

How should the armed forces treat the 65,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel currently serving? Should the military round up and discharge all 65,000 troops (which would be as impractical as it would be catastrophic), or should gay Americans be allowed to serve playing by the same rules as all other service members? In 1993, there was no hard data on how many gays were actually serving, and some who supported the ban argued, incorrectly, that the numbers were insignificant. The 2000 census provided the first insight into how many gay patriots are fighting for us today.

What evidence is there that the United States military's strength has degraded due to the presence of openly gay service members? According to a 2007 Zogby poll, 23% of Iraq and Afghan veterans reported that they knew someone who was openly gay in the military. We also know that American forces are serving with openly gay troops from foreign militaries in joint operations and with NATO forces deployed around the world, and yet there has been no report of operational deficiency. So, what is the continued readiness rationale when policy (the ban) and practice (people are telling) are different?

What evidence is there that openly gay service members have disrupted privacy in the barracks or showers? The showers argument animated great opposition to gays in the military in 1993. Paul Cameron, of the Family Research Institute, recently agreed on the Colbert Report that he would "rather die in a terrorist attack than suffer through an uncomfortable shower with a gay?" Yet, with nearly one-quarter of gay troops serving openly, there has not been any report of a problem in fourteen years.

Should we risk mission accomplishment by banning gays critical to the mission? Would you prefer that Osama bin Laden stay at large, or be captured, if the person who caught him turned out to be gay? Should we have aborted the effort to rescue Jessica Lynch because one of the participants was gay? Should we discharge Arabic linguists who are gay? As former Republican Senator Alan Simpson in a Washington Post op-ed observed, "Is there a 'straight' way to translate Arabic?"

It is doubtful that Congress will pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year. Yet, the hearing this week is significant as it marks the first time Congress has re-engaged on the issue. Will Congress take note that popular and military opinion supporting gays serving openly has changed dramatically? Will Congress place a greater burden on the Department of Defense to prove, with hard evidence, why a ban is still necessary? Answers to these questions will provide a window into whether Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed next year, or much later.


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Dixon, thanks for the poll numbers. You've posed some really good questions, and I know that our readers are going to be watching these debates closely. Let's hope that there actually is debate on the issue, rather than empty political posturing.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 22, 2008 11:25 PM

Well done Monica! Thank you Dixon.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 23, 2008 5:14 AM

DADT is exclusively the responsibility of bigots in the Democratic Party. It was written by a bigot named Sam Nunn, one of Obama’s key advisors. Bigoted Democratic (sic) members of Congress joined Republicans in overwhelmingly voting it in. Then the same Dixiecrat right-winger who boasted on Southern religious radio stations about his signature on DOMA, Bill Clinton, signed DADT into law.

Our objection to DADT is on that basis; it’s a bigoted law passed by a party of bigots that harms GLBT servicemembers. We also have to recognize that it’s a trap to link support for civil rights with support for the oil piracy in Iraq or the dangerous and deranged threats of Obama against the Pakistanis or of Clinton and McCain against the Iranians. They are not linked and have nothing to do with capturing the mass murderer Bin Laden. The vast bulk of US military activity is centered on acquiring hegemony over the regions oil resources not on capturing Bin Laden.

Just as we support the GI’s civil rights we should support the antiwar movement and let everyone know that we think that volunteering for ‘service’ in a period when the US military and their allies are murdering Muslims on a vast scale to steal their oil is volunteering for genocide. We should encourage everyone to stay 0ut of the armed forces.

We should be very clear that we join with our allies in the antiwar movement to demand that all US military, security and mercenary forces be withdrawn from the region and that the US cut the purse strings that finance the apartheid and ethnic cleansing policies used against Palestinians. We need allies to win our fight but we won’t get them if we’re seen supporting the Clinton/Bush genocide in Iraq by encouraging enlistment or re-upping

Thanks for guest posting, Dixon. I'll be keeping an eye on the proceedings.

Thanks for posting on this Dixon and thank you Monica for pointing out the forgotten T.While I'm sure your intentions are well meaning Bill Pardue I believe you are mistaken in assuming that US Soldiers are murdering muslims on a vast scale simply for their oil.The sad fact is we've spent more money trying to secure the gulf than the dam oil is worth.As a T Infantry Vet (Berlin 1981-1984)I can assure you that I have never met a US Infantry Vet that would choose to kill innocent non combatants simply because of their religious beliefs.Does things happen that can be regretted in war yes but you can't allow that to overshadow the intentions of the majority of soldiers.Also please don't forget about the three thousand who died in the World Trade Towers simply because they were viewed as American.I'm sure that if you used a little more care in how you protest the Iraq war that you'd find most people agree that it was handled in a bad way and that we were lied to in entering it but that is not the fault of the soldier.The soldiers job is to defend your rights to freedom that includes your right to question their actions.Just try to do it responsibly.Amy

When will those numbers ever be high enough?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 23, 2008 3:10 PM

Amy, I have no idea how many Iraqis and Afghans were murdered as result of direct action by US forces and how many were murdered by indigenous Quislilngs in the collaborationist Iraqi police and military forces or by the Brits etc. (I do know that the Irish, while sympathetic to the Iraqis, are very glad the murderers of the Royal Parachute Regiment [Bloody Sunday} are in Basra and not Belfast.)

All of the estimated million plus murdered Iraqis were murdered as a result of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq by the US. US military forces are not fighting for ‘freedom’ there, or in Afghanistan, nor were they in their dozens of invasions of Latin American nations, in the Phillipines, in China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, to mention but a few.

USMC Commandant S. D. Butler, the most decorated Marine in history said "I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

Things haven’t changed in the least since Commandant Butler wrote that seventy years ago. Vietnam, Panama, etc. prove that beyond a doubt. In the Middle East the US is fighting and killing muslims solely for regional hegemony to control and sell the oil. You are one of three people on the planet who don't get that. It’s an affront to the memory of the dead Iraqis and GI’s killed there to say otherwise or to imply that they’re fighting for ‘rights’. Rights, ours or the Iraqis, have nothing to do with it. We have to tell the truth about the buthery going on there and we have to do everything we can to save American and Iraqi lives.

Try being a little responsible Amy. Try to discourage young men and women from going to fight for the oil companies and help save the lives of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Or if you can’t do that at least do nothing to encourage recruitment or reenlistment.

Would you argue WW2 was unnecessary?More innocent life was lost in that then many large wars combined.Six million jews in germany probably that many more in Russia LGBT people also suffered under the ultimate solution.Then add all the civilian casualtys and military.It took firebombing german citys to the ground and dropping atomic weapons on Japan to get that to end.That must never be forgotten or allowed to happen again.I have mixed feelings on America's pre-emptive strike policy but I do believe it is required for national security.I wonder if you have ever been outside the US?While I was stationed in Berlin the Iran-Iraq war was being fought.German TV is much less censored than American TV and showed the bodies of Iranian soldiers who had been gassed with blister agent also don't forget that he gassed Kurd villagers.Iran thinks it doesn't have gays although if that was true why do they kill them.Iraq I'm sure killed gays and still may.Yes we were lied to but Saddam Hussein was no saint.We tried paying him, UN sanctions and the threat of war he didn't blink when he should of.Amy

jeffhersh | July 23, 2008 9:03 PM

Dixon,

On behalf of the entire LGBT community -- yes, I now speak for us all; they elected me in my dreams last night -- we want to thank you for your tenacious pursuit of justice in the fight to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Today's hearings in the House subcommittee on military personnel present perhaps the most major milestone to date in the efforts you began 15 years ago. SLDN may have a new captain (and crew) at the wheel, but the ship steams ahead based on momentum you created in years past. I hope you feel proud of yourself for today's hearings -- they stand as a testament to your vision and hard work.

Jeff Hersh