This week the New York Times published an opinion piece about President Obama’s decision to “review” (and this reviewer personally hope that means “eliminating”) the “dont-ask-don’t-tell” policy currently established in the military. The article, entitled “An About Face on Gay Troops” written by Owen West basically just elaborates on the current state of gays in the military. And, I have to say, I’m glad that there is someone out there espousing this particular idea.
Being gay in the military doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. This is basically what the article said, and I can’t say that I disagree at all. In fact, I agree quite srongly. Perhaps in the 90’s, when “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” was enacted by President Clinton, the current social attitudes towards homosexuality required such a policy. However this is no longer the case. Soldiers today are more comfortable serving with homosexuals and, even if that were not the case, many of them say that the current civil and political situation surrounding war and being in service makes the issues of sexual orientation that much less important. As West articulates, “The battlefield has its own values, starting with courage. Sexual orientation falls somewhere below musical taste. What a person chooses to do back stateside, off-duty, in his own apartment is irrelevant in a fight.” Amen to that. In addition, I’ve always considered it a small violation of personal rights to tell someone in the military that they are not allowed to be who they are (the debate as to whether homosexuality is a genetic trait or a lifestyle choice is one that I don’t choose to have right now. But, if you’re interested in my views on the matter, feel free to ask!) The military requires that all gay men and women must not come out, must not reveal their sexual orientation, or they will be discharged. This means that those male soldiers who prefer men to women must, in their own way, lie. To themselves, to their friends, to their commanders and often to their fellow homosexual service partners. And, as West said, being gay has no impact on the capability of service provided by those soldiers.
When President Clinton issued the policy, only 44% of Americans were comfortable with homosexuals serving openly in the military. Under these conditions, I understand why the policy was passed. However, now 80% of Americans say that they would be comfortable with an openly gay man or woman serving. This change in public opinion means that we need to see a change in policy. Hopefully Obama realizes this and, within his first 100 days, makes a concrete change in a policy that needs some serious editing. Happy reading!