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I Asked, He Told

By The Reverend Published: June 9, 2009

From yesterday's Washington Post....

The Supreme Court today declined to hear a constitutional challenge to the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military, a move that could effectively leave it to the Obama administration to resolve the long-controversial issue.

......

In the "don't ask, don't tell" case, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration, which had urged the justices not to hear the appeal against the policy, even though Obama is on record as opposing it. The court thus spared the administration from having to defend in court a policy that the president eventually wants to abolish pending a review by the Pentagon.

A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to talk with a newly-married Army soldier home on leave. He's been in the Army for 7 years and has done three tours in Iraq. I asked him about "Don't ask, Don't tell."

We have often heard ignorant ramblings about servicemen having to be careful in the shower, "don't drop the soap", etc....as an explanation of why gays can't serve openly in the military. If gays can openly serve with straights, we have been told, then straights will always be leery that a gay is going to jump on them, or something. As long as soldiers don't know whether a fellow soldier is gay, that "fear of the queer", so to speak, is diminished.

Unit cohesiveness and the morale of straight soldiers are also set forward as reasons why gays cannot serve openly in the military. We certainly need unit cohesiveness and a military whose morale is high, but what does that even mean viv-a-vis the DADT policy?

The young soldier I spoke with gave me some frank answers on this topic. The problem with finding out that a fellow serviceperson is gay is with the intolerance exhibited by straight soldiers after they know a fellow soldier is gay.

In other words, because many straight soldiers will harass and abuse another soldier after they discover he is gay.....it's better to keep sexual orientation a secret, so the prone-to-intolerance straights don't punish the gay soldier.

When "morale" and "cohesiveness" are referred to as justifications for not ending DADT....according to my young veteran's words.......intolerant behavior by straights, open discrimination and focused abuse of the outed soldier is what those words actually mean.

Commanders, platoon leaders, etc....don't want to have to spend time dealing with problems of bigotry and internal strife within their ranks....time better spent focusing on training or the "mission"....and all because intolerant straight soldiers can't resist the temptation to persecute and punish an openly gay soldier. Better for the gay soldier to keep quiet.

During WW2 the same dynamic was at work with black soldiers. Black soldiers were segregated, for the most part, from white soldiers because many white soldiers were intolerant of blacks. Unit cohesiveness and morale would be threatened if blacks served openly with whites, because many whites didn't want blacks serving alongside of them...because they were...well...black.

Just exchange the word black with gay....and the argument seems identical.

What I learned from the young veteran....someone who has paid his dues and knows what he is talking about....was that the DADT policy is still advocated by military leaders BECAUSE of the discriminatory attitude towards gays still exhibited by some straight soldiers.

This is not an easy-to-solve problem, I recognize that. However, I think it is necessary to know why we are doing what we are doing.

We discriminate against gays in the military because some straight soldiers cannot, as of yet, control their own tendencies to discriminate and be intolerant of gays.

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