Friday, April 09, 2010

Pentagon Accepts Gay Members

A 1993 study by the Rand Corporation, as President Clinton was considering modifying the policy banning gay persons from the military, concluded

the most promising policy option for achieving the President’s objectives focuses on conduct and considers sexual orientation, by itself, as not germane in determining who may serve in the Armed Forces.

Soon after, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was implemented by which, according to Wikipedia quoting The New York Times quoting the Pentagon

Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.

That was back in a time of the rather quaint notion that an individual may not be judged on the basis of inherited characteristics (such as attraction to someone of the same gender) but may be judged by his/her behavior (including sexual).

That is a distinction which has proven virtually impossible to maintain. According to wikipedia, there have been over 13,000 discharges of individuals known to be gay or bisexual since announcement of DADT, though the rate has declined since September 11, 2001 (perhaps a variant of necessity being the mother of invention).

Then, and now, the main argument against allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military was the belief that it endangers unit cohesion.

Not having served in the armed forces, I could not be sure whether there is much merit in that reasoning, but apparently Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois does not find it credible.

Lt. Robin R. Churasiya left active duty in 2007 but returned in 2009 and was sent to Scott. Then, as Stars and Stripes tells it

a male former service member she once dated forwarded a group e-mail she had written to her commander. In that e-mail, Chaurasiya said she was a lesbian.

After an investigation, Chaurasiya submitted a memorandum to her commander declaring herself a lesbian.

"I want to be respected for it, and if I am going to be disrespected I don't want to be here," Chaurasiya said.

Chaurasiya said she did not enter into the union or declare herself a lesbian to get a discharge. "My intention is not to get out," she said. "But if I am going to be kept in and treated unfairly either from my peers or by the military itself ... then I want to be loud about it to bring about the change or I do not want to be here."

General Allardice could have discharged Chaurasiya

under the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Instead, he determined in February that she should remain in the Air Force because she acknowledged her sexual orientation for the purpose of "avoiding and terminating military service."

Now, isn't that great: if you violate DADT by "outing" yourself, you're worthy of staying in the military; if someone inappropriately "outs" you, you get tossed like a salad (no stand-up routine for me, admittedly). Evidently recognizing irony, the Stars and Stripes reporter noted "The decision had the flavor of a Catch-22: if you admit to being homosexual you can be discharged from the military, but if you admit it for the purposes of being discharged you won't be."
Or as a senior research fellow Santa Barbara's Palm Center of the University of California observed:

If commanders are ignoring or rejecting credible evidence of homosexuality because of the alleged motive of the person who makes the statement, the bottom line is they are keeping gay people in the service. That gives the lie that known gay people undercut the military.

DADT shouldn't be overturned on the basis that most Americans appear to support its repeal- or even because most members of the military reportedly find service by gay individuals acceptable. But if the military is allowed to retain individuals who declare their homosexuality, it is acknowledging that gay men and women are serving, and openly. And if those individuals are not uniformly banished from the military, the institution has a de facto policy of supporting this reality. Who (except John McCain), then, is left to make the argument of maintaining a ban on homosexuals in the service?

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