Speaking out for gay rights

Military opponents of the US “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning openly gay soldiers from serving in the military spoke out this week in Washington, in the latest criticism of the legislation.

Coinciding with the law’s 14th anniversary Friday, 28 retired generals and admirals put their names to a letter to Congress, demanding that the controversial legislation be scrapped.

“We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” the letter said.

“As General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said when the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was enacted, it is not the place of the military or those in senior leadership to make moral judgments,” it said.

“As is the case in Britain, Israel and other nations which allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion and sexuality,” the officers said.

The letter marked the single largest number of generals and admirals from the US armed forces to come out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at one time, according to a statement issued by the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative organisation that supports equal treatment for homosexuals.

Since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came into force in 1993, 12,000 soldiers have been forced to leave the military, either because they refused to hide their homosexuality or because they were denounced by fellow soldiers.

On Friday, human rights organisations teamed up with groups like Log Cabin Republicans and a legal defence network for soldiers to plant 12,000 American flags on the National Mall in Washington to recognise the men and women who have suffered because of the policy.

The generals and admirals who signed the letter to Congress cited “scholarly data” which show that around 65,000 gays and lesbians serve in the US armed forces.

According to a poll conducted by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation in May, 79 percent of Americans think homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military.

Another survey conducted at the end of last year by the Zogby polling company showed that nearly three-quarters of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan said they had no problem fighting alongside homosexual comrades.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the legislation to date, but the legal system has always ruled on the side of the military.

The issue came to the fore during Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate on CNN, when a retired general asked why gays could not serve openly in the US military.

The television chain found itself under fire when the general in question identified himself as a member of a focus group working for the camp of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But while leading Democratic candidates criticise the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, Republican candidates favour a status quo.

In March, general Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sparked an uproar by declaring homosexuality “immoral.”

He clarified later, however, that he was expressing his personal opinion.

On Friday, several former officers spoke in Washington about their dismissal from the military because of their declared homosexuality.

Rhonda Davis, who served in the navy, bitterly complained the military accepted people with criminal pasts and poor educational backgrounds while dismissing others for their sexual orientation and honesty about it.

2 Responses to "Speaking out for gay rights"

  1. keith  December 1, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Unfortunately, there are still FAR too many bigots in Congress (and in all ranks of our military) who are unable (or unwilling) to accept the fact that, for some people, homosexuality is as much a part of being human as living and dying. It’s also been a significant part of our social fabric for centuries…even in the Church.

    Yet, when faced with such irrefutable evidence, many “purist” authoritarians in Congress (as well as the military) STILL persist in trying to justify such institutionalized bigotry with the continued mantra that homosexuality is somehow “detrimental to good order and discipline”.

    Clearly, and despite all the “duty, honor and country” blather our military’s senior leadership continually dishes up for our consumption, hypocrisy still abounds in the Military Services of the United States. Street drugs remain illegal, but yet all manner of booze remains readily available at military-run Class Six stores and flows freely in on-base military clubs. Simple adultery remains a felony offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but yet senior officers routinely look the other way when it happens…probably because they, too, have been perpetrators of that same “crime” from time to time as well.

    Most other military services throughout the world (including ALL of the Military Services in Europe, as well as in other “western” countries like Australia, Israel and Canada) have now seamlessly integrated homosexuals into their Military.

    What’s more, the vast majority of the estimated 65,000 homosexual members of our own Armed Forces (along with the over one million retirees) who are now serving (or who have served) our country in the Military have done so faithfully and honorably.

    The sorry excuse that having homosexuals serve openly in our military would cause a breakdown of “good order and discipline” simply doesn’t wash. It never really did.

    Such dogma is just another name for institutionalized bigotry. We don’t legally tolerate such systemic discrimination in other public institutions in our society. So why do we continue tolerating it in our Military Services?

  2. Sandra Price  December 1, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    Keith, I can give you links to several Conservative sites where they plan for the extinction of gays and athiests. They claim to be American patriots but their concepts of individual rights are for straight white Christian males only. They don’t just exist but they are breeding generations of hateful people for the future of America. I saw this coming back in the early 70s and I made certain it would go no further in my own family.

    I broke the chain of hatred in my own family roots. It went no further.

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