Integrity Ban to be Lifted?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

For as many of his policies I so vehemently oppose, I am cautiously optimistic that Barack Obama will succeed in lifting the ban-that-isn't-called-a-ban on service in the military by people who are openly homosexual.

I am particularly impressed with this argument in favor of ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

"No matter how I look at the issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Noting that he was speaking for himself and not for the other service chiefs, Mullen added: "For me, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as an institution." [bold added]
I served in the submarine force when Bill Clinton was elected President and recall the last time this issue was raised for serious consideration. Among the objections to having gays serve openly was the fear that their presence could damage morale and harm unit cohesion, I presume due to the homophobia that used to be so prevalent in male culture. While you can certainly change the official policy on homosexuality with the stroke of a pen, you cannot change common attitudes quite so easily.

When this question was in the limelight, I could see merit in both the above argument and the notion that if someone is gay and serving in the military, he ought to be able to say so if he wishes. I also recall being unsure that making big changes to the then-current policy quickly would be a wise move and so leaned against doing so. (I did think even then that the ban should eventually be lifted. My concern was that the time was wrong or that the change would be implemented poorly. The latter possibility does give me some pause now.)

I would, some time later, be surprised to learn that there were several gay enlisted men serving with me on my submarine. I even got the impression that practically all the enlisted men and my fellow junior officers knew who they were. As far as I could tell, nobody really cared. So much for my theory that I was probably a little bit ahead of my time on that question! Apparently this issue wasn't really a big deal after all.

Granted, the submarine force is generally better-educated than other segments of the military, but still, that was nearly twenty years ago. Social acceptance of homosexuality has improved drastically since then. Knowing what I know now, and having a better philosophical grasp of the issues at stake, I think it's high time to lift the ban on openly gay individuals serving in the military.

-- CAV


: Fixed last sentence. (HT: Jennifer Snow)


Jennifer Snow said...

Gus, that last sentence about "gays openly serving in the military" makes it sound like gay people are embarrassed to admit their military service, not that military people are embarrassed (and discouraged) out of admitting that they're gay. :0)

Word order can make a BIIIIIG difference.

Matt said...

Hi Gus. I really enjoy your writing. Sure wish I could write a fraction as well as you. Anyhoo, on this topic, I think I disagree...succumbing and being satisfied with the current "brain fart" society we live in today (shortsighted ethically/morally)...I take the traditionalist view of excluding gays on principle and the military's own (exclusive) law. This piece from Blackfive says it quite well - particularly the last paragraph...

Be well, and thanks for your service.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the catch! The new job is leaving me precious little time to write or edit, so a few of those get through once in a while.


You're welcome, and thanks both for the compliment and expressing your disagreement with me respectfully.

That said, All BlackFive does in quoting what that law says is (1) State the obvious -- that the government can decide who qualifies for military service. No argument there, and (2) Repeat the same objections to gay service that I personally saw were moot, and have heard aren't a problem in militaries that do allow openly gay people to serve.

That said, the fact that BlackFive is making such a big deal out of this is disappointing, and indicates that the military may not be as far along as I thought.

Does this mean that now isn't the right time? I still think not.


Matt said...

Hey Gus,

I need to say, checkout Blackfive more if you can. That post link I provided was only one of other views on the topic. Blackfive is a group of amazing, smart, worldly guys. Particularly, Uncle Jimbo! He is a hoot! I had the honor of meeting him once, he's something. This is his take...I think you will agree, and I'll admit, he makes a good case.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks. I'll make a point of stopping by there when I have a bit more time on my hands.

And, yes. I'm with Uncle Jimbo, who is a good read.



madmax said...


I know this is an old post but I recently came across an argument against gays int the military that I haven't seen before. I wonder what you think of it.

I think there is a sleight of hand going on but I can't put my finger on it.

Gus Van Horn said...


What this person is doing is (1) ignoring an essential difference between the BSA and the military: the former is a private organization that should be allowed to determine who will and will not become scoutmasters, while the latter is a government institution that should not be able to make such calls without good reason; and (2) ignoring the (legitimate) reason that men and women don't share living quarters in the military (and youth organizations may wish to discriminate against certain classifications of adults watching children): Adult men are generally stronger than women and children.

That's the sleight-of-hand. The author also somehow expects us to forget that many straight males would react in a most unpleasant way to an unwanted sexual advance, and that gays have never thought about or realized this before.

Thanks for pointing that one out.