Friday, December 24, 2010

Gays in uniform

Earlier this week President Obama signed into law legislation that allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed services, with predictable outcomes. Progressives are hailing the new policy, which replaces "don't ask, don't tell," enacted during the Clinton Administration and which itself replaced an outright ban.

Meanwhile some conservatives are apoplectic, right-wing columnist Star Parker writing, "I cannot think of anything more dangerous to our national security and the ongoing strength of our nation than the collapse of our sense that there are objective rights and wrongs."

The truth is, as in many cases, is probably somewhere in between.

It's naive to believe that gays haven't served in the military even when they were officially prohibited -- I haven't myself, but those that have can tell you of fellow soldiers/sailors/airmen who they knew were, though closeted. And they'll tell you that it probably wasn't an issue -- they were there to do a job. Simple as that.

On top of that, hundreds, possibly thousands, of servicemen and -women were discharged once their sexual orientation became known, even though they wanted to serve and despite the chunk of change spent on their training.

What about the folks who felt squeamish about bunking with or showering in front of someone who might be gay? The assumption here, of course, is that gays can't or won't control their impulses. (Perhaps they ought to have more sympathy for women whom men ogle with impunity.) I've played on sports teams with fellows who might have been gay -- I don't know for sure, nor do I care to -- but don't obsess over it.

However, I don't see it as a civil-rights issue per se. Even now too much focus is on sex -- and American society is arguably the most puritanical in the Western world -- and not enough on serving the country.

My own personal position, formulated as I write this, would be to have left DADT in place. After all, if sexual orientation didn't really matter we wouldn't need to talk about it and if incidents happen they should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

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