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Gays in the Military


Homosexuals have been excluded from our society since our
country's beginning, giving them no equal protection
underneath the large branch of the law. The Emancipation
Proclamation gave freedom to blacks from slavery in the
1800's and women were given the freedoms reserved for males
in the early 1900's with the women's suffrage movement. But
everyone still knows the underlying feeling of nation in
dealing with minorities and women, one of contempt and
utter disgust. Hate crimes are still perpetrated to this
day in this country, and most are unpublicized and "swept
underneath the rug." The general public is just now dealing
with the struggle of Homosexuals to gain rights in America,
although this persecution is subtle, quiet and rarely ever
seen to the naked eye or the general public.
 The big question today in Homosexuals rights struggles are
dealing with the right to be a part of our country's
Military Forces. At the forefront of the struggle to gain
access to the military has been Female's who have tried to
gain access to "All Men" facilities and have been pressured
out by other cadets. This small group of women have fought
hard, and pressured the Government to change regulations
dealing with the inclusion of all people, whether female or
male, and giving them all the same opportunities they
deserve. The Homosexual struggle with our Nation's Armed
Forces has been acquiring damage and swift blows for over
60 years now, and now they too are beginning to fight back.
 With the public knowledge of "initiation rights" into many
elite groups of the military, the general public is
beginning to realize how exclusive the military can be. One
cadet said after "hell week" in the Marines, "It was almost
like joining a fraternity, but the punishments were 1000
times worse than ever imagined, and the Administration did
not pretend to turn there back, they were instrumental in
the brutality." The intense pressure of "hell week" in the
Marines drove a few to wounding themselves, go AWOL, and a
few even took there own life. People who are not "meant to
be" in the Military are usually weeded out during these
"initiations" and forced either to persevere or be
discharged dishonorably. The military in the United States
has become an elite society, a society where only few
 In a survey taken in 1990, the United States population on
a whole is believed to consist of 13-15% Homosexuals. This
figure is believed to have a margin of error on the upward
swing due to the fact that most homosexuals are still
"afraid" of their sexuality and the social taboos it
carries along with it. With so many Homosexuals in the
United States, how can the military prove its exclusion
policy against Homosexuals correct and moral? Through the
"long standing tradition and policy," says one Admiral of
the U.S. Navy. But is it fair or correct? That is the
question posed on Capitol Hill even today, as politicians
battle through a virtual minefield of tradition and equal
Historically, support for one's military was a way to show
one's patriotism, if not a pre-requisite for being
patriotic at all. Society has given the military a great
deal of latitude in running its own affairs, principally
due to society's acknowledgment that the military needs
such space in order to run effectively. The military, in
turn, has adopted policies which, for the most part, have
lead to very successful military ventures, which served to
continually renew society's faith in the military.
Recently, however, that support has been fading. The
Vietnam War represented both a cause of diminishing support
for the military by society as well a problem. The Vietnam
War occurred during a period of large-scale civil
disobedience, as well as a time where peace was more
popular than war. Since the effectiveness of the military
depends a great deal upon society's support, when society's
support dropped out of the war effort, the war effort in
turn suffered. The ultimate defeat of the United States in
the Vietnam War effort only lead to less faith in the
military's ability. This set the stage for society becoming
more involved in how the military was run.
The ban on homosexuals serving in the military, was
originally instituted in 1942. Though some of the reasons
that were used to justify it at the time have been debunked
since-that homosexual service members in sensitive
positions could be blackmailed, for instance ("Gays and the
Military" 54)-the policy was largely an extension of the
military's long-standing policy against homosexual acts. At
the time, the prevailing attitude was that homosexuality
was a medical/psychiatric condition, and thus the military
sought to align itself with this school of thought. Rather
than just continuing to punish service members for
individual acts of sodomy, the military took what was
thought to be a kinder position-excluding those people who
were inclined to commit such acts in the first place, thus
avoiding stiffer penalties (including prison sentences) for
actually committing them.

As society and the military came to be more enlightened
about the nature of homosexuality, a redefinition of the
policy became necessary. In 1982, the policy was redefined
to state that "a homosexual (or a lesbian) in the armed
forces seriously impairs the ability of the military
services to maintain discipline, good order and morale.'"
(Quoted in "Out of the Locker" 26) Essentially, it was
reasoned that homosexuality and military service were
incompatible, and thus homosexuals should be excluded from
the military. Only in 1994 was this policy changed, and
then only the exclusion of homosexuals-acts of
homosexuality or overt acknowledgment of one's
homosexuality are still forbidden in the military. But we
must ask ourselves, why was this ban upheld for so long?
The primary reason that the military upheld its ban against
gay service members was that it was necessary for the
military to provide "cohesiveness." Society bent to
accommodate homosexuality. The military, however, cannot
bend if it is to effectively carry out its duties. The
realities of military life include working closely while on
duty, but the true intimacies "are to be traced to less
bellicose surroundings-to the barracks, the orderly room,
the mess hall. If indeed the military can lay claim to any
sense of `organic unity,' it will be found in the intimacy
of platoon and company life." (Bacevich 31) The military
demands an extreme amount of cohesiveness, and this is very
much reinforced in barracks life. You must sleep with, eat
with, and share facilities with your fellow platoon
members. Life in the barracks is extremely intimate. Men
must share rooms together, and showers are public also.
Having homosexuals be part of this structure violates this
cohesiveness so the military says. Men and women are kept
in separate barracks much for the same reasons.

However, the true purpose behind barring gay service
members is how the individuals who are part of the military
feel about them. Members of the military are more
conservatively minded people, but, moreover, they are
overwhelmingly opposed to having homosexuals among their
ranks (Hackworth 24). To then force these individuals to
serve with gays only undermines the morale of the military.
And when morale is undermined, the effectiveness of the
military plummets as well. The leadership of the military
has always been persistent in its position-"Up and down the
chain of command, you'll find the military leadership
favors the ban." (Quoted in "Gays and the Military" 55).
And, as one navy lieutenant put it: "The military is a
life-and-death business, not an equal opportunity
employer." (Quoted in Hackworth 24)

No one is doubting that gays have served in the military.
Ever since Baron Frederich von Steuben (a renowned Prussian
military-mind and known homosexual) served as a Major
General in the Continental Army (Shilts 7), there have been
homosexuals serving in the military. Even today there
exists a Gay American Legion post in San Francisco ("Gays
and the Military" 55). However, the general consensus is
that allowing them in the service represents a
rubber-stamping of their existence rather than a concerted
effort to discourage it. Though the homosexual lobby often
cites the fact that gays have always served in the military
as a justification for lifting the ban, this sort of
reasoning is invalid. There are many other types of
behavior that the military has been unable to completely
eradicate, such as discharge and use of illegal substances.
No one would ever deny that these things happen in the
military. But the point is that if they were made legal,
there would be more instances of them. To use the lack of
perfect implementation as a pretext for legalization is
equally absurd in the civilian world: Do we legalize
criminal behavior on the grounds that "people have always
done it"?
Another parallel that is frequently drawn with gays in the
military is that of the situation of women in the military.
Though largely a male institution-"Symbolically, the
military represents masculinity more than any institution
other than professional sports" (Quoted in "Gunning for
Gays" 44)-women have been a part of the military since
World Wide II and the women's support units have been
abolished since 1978 (Moskos 22). But, like that of race to
homosexuality, the comparison is invalid. Women are not
permitted in combat units (Towell 3679)-an exclusion that
for homosexuals would be hard to implement, at best. They
also have separate barracks and facilities, which would be
equally as unpractical to homosexuals.

In 1994, Bill Clinton, by executive order, implemented a
policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." Homosexuals can be in
the military so long as they do not violate rules against
homosexual acts and do not announce themselves as being
gay. Already severely disliked among members of the
military (Hackworth 24), President Clinton received
criticism from both sides of the issue for the
implementation of this policy. Members of the military were
upset at the legalization of homosexuals serving in the
military, and members of the gay lobby (and their
supporters) were upset that a full lifting of the ban was
not implemented. Many were also concerned that this
violated gay service members' right to free speech, though
members of the military do not hold this right.

The movement to have the ban on homosexuals in the military
lifted came, for the most part, from without (society)
rather than from within the military itself. The military,
by and large, has always remained opposed to the lifting of
this ban. But the transition of the control of the military
from the military itself to the political world has been a
sign of society's changing attitude toward the military.
The lifting of the ban seemed not a matter of dealing with
the reality of military life or an effort to create a more
effective military, evidenced in such statements as
"Resisting the ban is important, but so is opposing
militarism" ("Cross Purposes" 157) and "the (end of) the
Soviet Union would herald not just a new American foreign
policy but, more radically, a new American political
culture free from militarized pride and anxieties." (Enloe
24) It becomes increasingly questionable whether those who
would have gays serve in the military having the welfare of
their own ideals, rather than the welfare of the military,
in mind when considering policy. Indeed, most of the
military considers this to be the case. (Hackworth 24-25)

If the admission of homosexuals into the military causes
adverse effects on the morale of the soldiers, then the
debate should be re-opened there. The military's function
is to protect democracy. The sacrifices associated with
military service may be very great-up to giving up one's
life. Excluding homosexuals from military service seems
petty, everyone should be allowed to defend their country.
Moreover, the politicizing of such issues undermines the
military's faith in the civilian leadership that guides it.
The military is quickly loosing its prestige, its
traditional conservative values, and that is a good thing
for most Americans. Reinstating the ban would be a gesture
of utter and sheer digustedness in our military. Having
homosexuals in the military is a matter of military
effectiveness-not of the homosexuals' ability to perform
military duties, but of the morale of the military as a
whole. And, in the military, it is always the good of the
whole which must be considered before the good of the
individual. The ending of the Cold War and the
re-definition of the military's mission does not mean that
we should make the military less effective. If a policy in
regards to the military does not improve its effectiveness,
then it should not be implemented. But when the
implementation means giving a chance to few who would like
to serve out great nation, than it should be considered


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