I went to the online inbox site that the DoD set up to take responses and feedback from servicemembers and their families on DADT repeal. What follows is my submission.
As an active duty Marine officer with eight years of service, I believe wholeheartedly that DADT needs to be repealed. I find it insulting that it was enacted in the first place and believe that a full repeal and the addition of sexual orientation into DoD equal opportunity policies are long overdue. It is an embarrassment to me that although the other major military powers in the world have moved to non-discrimination policies, the US still holds true to this clearly discriminatory and out-dated policy. The policy’s existence implies that servicemembers are too unprofessional to handle themselves appropriately around people of different sexual orientations.
When DADT was implemented, it simultaneously allowed gays to serve and stripped them of their dignity. The policy essentially says that gay people are welcome to serve, but that in doing so they must deny their nature. While a certain amount of personal liberty is inherently sacrificed in military service, the policy goes too far. It is akin to forcing a person to deny his heritage. The medical and psychiatric communities agree that a person has no control over his sexual orientation. In fact, he has no more control over it than he has over his nationality. A person can no more choose to change or deny his sexual orientation than he can change or deny his ancestry. Although the very idea that the latter could be governed by law is laughable, that is essentially what DADT requires gay servicemembers to do.
All that aside, a person’s sexual orientation has no bearing on his ability to perform well in the military. The proof is right in front of us. There are currently gay people serving the military, and under the current policy, their service is indistinguishable from that of their straight colleagues. They already serve next to–and in close quarters with–other servicemembers, and their sexuality has no bearing on the quality of their work. If there were a difference between the quality of gay servicemembers and straight servicemembers, it would long since have been discovered.
What, then is the issue? There are those who argue that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if gays are allowed to serve openly. I would argue that the problems would be caused not by the gay servicemembers, but by servicemembers whose prejudices or worldviews drive them to believe a person’s sexuality is a moral issue. While there is certainly a large number of people who harbor this belief, there is no evidence that it actually is. (Indeed, the principal references and organizations that assert this particular belief are religious, and to allow these documents or groups to drive policy would violate the separation of church and state.) Regardless, the morality of individuals is secondary to the ethical standards of the institution to which they belong. In the military, these ethical standards include honor and integrity–both of which are compromised by gay servicemembers when they choose to serve under DADT. This policy is driven solely by prejudice against gays and the idea that their open service would somehow reduce the effectiveness or cohesion of the military. There is simply no evidence that this is the case. The idea that homosexuality reduces military readiness implies that heterosexuality enhances it, a theory too ridiculous to even expound upon. Furthermore, the idea that DADT offers gay servicemembers protection from discrimination and harassment by their peers (an argument made by those who oppose repeal of DADT) is both short-sighted considering the price they pay for this so-called protection and insulting to the professionalism of straight servicemembers to control whatever anxiety (justifiable or otherwise) they feel.
There are already policies and laws in place that govern the conduct of servicemembers. Existing regulations and laws that govern sexual harassment and discrimination are adequate to cover inappropriate behavior, regardless of the gender of the parties involved. (In fact, repealing DADT could serve to reduce harassment and discrimination, as there are certainly unreported incidents due to the fear of gay servicemembers outing themselves in reporting violations against them.)
The burden DADT places on gay servicemembers is difficult for most people who are not themselves gay to understand. Although the policy may seem to only ask them to keep their sexual orientation private, this cannot possibly be an easy task. Photos of family and loved ones, discussions of liberty plans, and questions about personal lives, while seemingly innocent, all require a gay servicemember to deny himself and his family–something that no servicemember should ever be asked to do–much less required by law to do.
It is hard for me to comprehend that an institution that places such a high value on family support would deny that very support to any of its members. To claim to support military families while unhesitatingly prohibiting some servicemembers from having or even speaking of their families is hypocritical. The very idea that servicemembers would not be allowed to marry, date, or even socialize with members of the opposite sex is a ridiculous concept. To deny servicemembers the right to a family would deny them the very support structure we rely so heavily on when we ask them to put their lives on the line for their country. Yet this is what DADT does to gay servicemembers. It is unhealthy, to say the least. While a servicemember’s spouse and their relationship clearly has no bearing on that servicemember’s abilities, the spouse’s gender apparently does.
That gays have been willingly accepting this for the past 17 years speaks undeniably of their commitment to serve. The debt of gratitude we owe them as a military and a nation can never be repaid. They should be honored for this commitment–not treated with the contempt this policy prescribes.
Afterthought: The POTUS proclamation about military spouse appreciation day (7 May 2010) highlights the very differences between straight and gay servicemembers and the disparity between them. If military spouses are so important and vital to the organization, why would we have a policy that explicitly prohibits gay servicemembers from having them?