Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Gays in the Military

Posted by Warren Peterson on February 10, 2010

A recently released poll of active duty military personnel shows that opposition to gays serving in the military has fallen from 63% to 51% and acceptance has grown from 24% to 30%. This change in attitude, while still opposed by a majority, is trending closer to the views of the general public which overwhelmingly supports allowing homosexuals in the military.

There are strong arguments in favor opening the doors of military service to homosexuals. It is seen as a matter of civil rights and non-discrimination. If anyone who is able to serve wants to serve, they ought to be allowed to serve. There are antidotal stories of the military losing critical skills, like translators, due to the prohibition of openly gay soldiers. Most of the world’s armed forces are open to homosexuals so what could be the harm if the U.S. did the same? Others compare it to President Truman’s order to end racial segregation of the military.

On the other hand, what happens when a group of soldiers living in the confines of a barracks – bunk beds, communal showers and all – find out that some members of the group are sexually attracted to their own sex? I think of when I was a newly minted Navy Ensign assigned to an aircraft carrier. All the Ensigns were berthed in the Junior Officer’s Bunk Room, which consisted of several four man, two-bunk bed cubicles crammed into a small space under the steam catapults. Always warm, it was tropical hot in the summer and we all slept in our Navy issue boxer shorts. I suppose there may have been a homosexual or two in the group, I just don’t know but if there were openly gay men, I am sure the rest of us would not have liked it. It would be similar to a few men living in an open barracks of women. The men may enjoy it but the women would be uncomfortable to say the least. The reason separate sleeping quarters are provided for men and women is obvious. Similarly, housing gays or lesbians in separate quarters with members of their own sex or with heterosexuals seems problematic at best. Regardless of these concerns, the pressure for a change is obvious.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, and the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama, have expressed support for lifting the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and allow homosexuals, in or out of the closet, to join the military. But we should proceed with caution. The purpose of the military is to train for and fight wars. Any change in policy that may interfere with readiness needs to be carefully considered and the practical results well publicized so revisions can be made if the data shows a need. Maybe any problems can be managed as was done when women joined support and combat units in greater numbers or racial segregation ended. Hopefully so but the effectiveness of our fighting forces must be paramount.

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