Thursday, October 11, 2007

Take it Like a Man

In comments made elsewhere, I proposed that the best argument for allowing same-sex couples to participate in civil unions was that such arrangements would provide gays and lesbians an opportunity to further "take their rightful places as fully-formed adults." It is my sense that by providing a legal approximation of marriage to homosexuals, they can gain for themselves the same advantages as heterosexuals in similarly committed relationships, and society can reap the benefits that accrue from increased familial stability.

If the integration of gays and lesbians into the fabric of American society makes good sense - and I would argue that as much is abundantly the case - then we need not stop with promises made at the county courthouse. A logical extension of this idea would encompass oaths of military service made by gay and lesbian recruits. The present "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) stalemate
was as despicable an executive order as any president ever issued, and is wholly untenable presently, as it reinforces the idea that the blood of gays and lesbians is unworthy to be shed in service of this country. It proposes that gays and lesbians are unfit and unable to serve with distinction, when the fact is that homosexuals have served with distinction since the founding.

The main lines of argument against enlisting openly gay recruits branch out from the idea that homosexuals "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion." From that dubious assumption, these formulations follow two main paths, the first suggesting that gays and lesbians would be targets for blackmail and espionage. This argument has been sufficiently debunked as long ago as 1957, with the publication of a report entitled "Report of the Board Appointed to Prepare and Submit Recommendations to the Secretary of the Navy for the Revision of Policies, Procedures and Directives Dealing With Homosexuals" The Crittenden Report found that the idea that gays and lesbians posed a security risk was "without sound basis in fact." (H/T: Servicemember's Legal Defense Network.)

The second justification
proposes that heterosexual males would be unnerved by the presence of gay males serving in their midst; this argument also collapses under the most cursory of examinations. To be sure, conservatives despise the idea of hate crimes, and with good reason. Equal protection under the law as accounted for by the Constitution demands that like crimes be punished be punished in a like manner, irrespective of the race, gender or orientation of either the victim or the perpetrator. Yet those conservatives who argue that enlisting gays in the military would be counter to necessary order and discipline (when they really mean that straight men would be fearful of being ogled - or worse - by gays) establish a similarly insidious bifurcation of standards, albeit in a clandestine manner.

For if man staring at another man in a lecherous manner is a problem, it is no more so than a man staring at a woman in an identical manner. Again, equal application of the law dictates that similar offenses be proscribed, prevented and punished in a similar fashion; if we can't maintain "discipline, good order and morale" with homosexuals in the military, how do we hope to do so with heterosexual members of both genders currently serving in close quarters. (If the case of Radioman Third Class Allan R. Schindler, Jr. is any indicator, it is the gay servicemembers who would have the most to fear from open military service, as opposed to the straights.)

But if appeals to logic are not to prevail, then I will appeal to fiscal reality. From the 1994 implementation of DADT to 2005, the military has discharged over 11,000 gays and lesbians (although the number has decreased significantly since the beginning of the War on Terror.) In 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that DADT cost taxpayers at least $190 million. But a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission suggested that the GAO's numbers were far too low, with their estimate being closer to $363.8 million (as reported in USA Today.)

In the end, DADT and all other prohibitions against gays openly serving in the military will be overcome by events; by every indication, younger generations seem to harbor less concern about homosexuals than their elders. And as gays and lesbians become more integrated into the fabric of our culture, both straights and gays will be the richer for it. We can only hope that society's acceptance of same-sex relationships will be matched by the gay community's acceptance of its responsibilities to society (as discussed elsewhere.)

Happy Coming Out Day!

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