Homosexuals have been excluded from our society since our country’s beginning,giving them no equal protection underneath the large branch of the law. TheEmancipation Proclamation gave freedom to blacks from slavery in the 1800’s andwomen were given the freedoms reserved for males in the early 1900’s with thewomen’s suffrage movement. But everyone still knows the underlying feeling ofnation in dealing with minorities and women, one of contempt and disgust.
Hatecrimes are still perpetrated to this day in this country, and most areunpublicized and “swept underneath the rug.” The general public isjust now dealing with the struggle of Homosexuals to gain rights in America,although this persecution is subtle, quiet and rarely ever seen to the naked eyeor the general public. The big question today in Homosexuals rights strugglesare dealing with the right to be a part of our country’s Military Forces. At theforefront of the struggle to gain access to the military has been Female’s whohave tried to gain access to “All Men” facilities and have beenpressured out by other cadets. This small group of women have fought hard, andpressured the Government to change regulations dealing with the inclusion of allpeople, whether female or male, and giving them all the same opportunities theydeserve. The Homosexual struggle with our Nation’s Armed Forces has beenacquiring damage and swift blows for over 60 years now, and now they too arebeginning to fight back. With the public knowledge of “initiationrights” into many elite groups of the military, the general public isbeginning to realize how exclusive the military can be. One cadet said after”hell week” in the Marines, “It was almost like joining afraternity, but the punishments were 1000 times worse than ever imagined, andthe Administration did not pretend to turn there back, they were instrumental inthe brutality.
” The intense pressure of “hell week” in theMarines drove a few to wounding themselves, go AWOL, and a few even took thereown life. People who are not “meant to be” in the Military are usuallyweeded out during these “initiations” and forced either to persevereor be discharged dishonorably. The military in the United States has become anelite society, a society where only few survive. In a survey taken in 1990, theUnited States population on a whole is believed to consist of 13-15%Homosexuals. This figure is believed to have a margin of error on the upwardswing due to the fact that most homosexuals are still “afraid” oftheir sexuality and the social taboos it carries along with it. With so manyHomosexuals in the United States, how can the military prove its exclusionpolicy against Homosexuals correct and moral? Through the “long standingtradition and policy,” says one Admiral of the U.S.
Navy. But is it fair orcorrect? That is the question posed on Capitol Hill even today, as politiciansbattle through a virtual minefield of tradition and equal rights. Historically,support for one’s military was a way to show one’s patriotism, if not apre-requisite for being patriotic at all. Society has given the military a greatdeal of latitude in running its own affairs, principally due to society’sacknowledgment that the military needs such space in order to run effectively.The military, in turn, has adopted policies which, for the most part, have leadto very successful military ventures, which served to continually renewsociety’s faith in the military.
Recently, however, that support has beenfading. The Vietnam War represented both a cause of diminishing support for themilitary by society as well a problem. The Vietnam War occurred during a periodof large-scale civil disobedience, as well as a time where peace was morepopular than war. Since the effectiveness of the military depends a great dealupon society’s support, when society’s support dropped out of the war effort,the war effort in turn suffered. The ultimate defeat of the United States in theVietnam War effort only lead to less faith in the military’s ability. This setthe stage for society becoming more involved in how the military was run.
Theban on homosexuals serving in the military, was originally instituted in 1942.Though some of the reasons that were used to justify it at the time have beendebunked since-that homosexual service members in sensitive positions could beblackmailed, for instance (“Gays and the Military” 54)-the policy waslargely an extension of the military’s long-standing policy against homosexualacts. At the time, the prevailing attitude was that homosexuality was amedical/psychiatric condition, and thus the military sought to align itself withthis school of thought. Rather than just continuing to punish service membersfor individual acts of sodomy, the military took what was thought to be a kinderposition-excluding those people who were inclined to commit such acts in thefirst place, thus avoiding stiffer penalties (including prison sentences) foractually committing them. As society and the military came to be moreenlightened about the nature of homosexuality, a redefinition of the policybecame necessary. In 1982, the policy was redefined to state that “ahomosexual (or a lesbian) in the armed forces seriously impairs the ability ofthe military services to maintain discipline, good order and morale.'”Essentially, it was reasoned that homosexuality and military service wereincompatible, and thus homosexuals should be excluded from the military. Only in1994 was this policy changed, and then only the exclusion of homosexuals-acts ofhomosexuality or overt acknowledgment of one’s homosexuality are still forbiddenin the military.
But we must ask ourselves, why was this ban upheld for so long?The primary reason that the military upheld its ban against gay service memberswas that it was necessary for the military to provide “cohesiveness.”Society bent to accommodate homosexuality. The military, however, cannot bend ifit is to effectively carry out its duties. The realities of military lifeinclude working closely while on duty, but the true intimacies “are to betraced to less bellicose surroundings-to the barracks, the orderly room, themess hall. If indeed the military can lay claim to any sense of ‘organic unity,’it will be found in the intimacy of platoon and company life.” The militarydemands an extreme amount of cohesiveness, and this is very much reinforced inbarracks life. You must sleep with, eat with, and share facilities with yourfellow platoon members.
Life in the barracks is extremely intimate. Men mustshare rooms together, and showers are public also. Having homosexuals be part ofthis structure violates this cohesiveness. Men and women are kept in separatebarracks much for the same reasons. However, the true purpose behind barring gayservice members is how the individuals who are part of the military feel aboutthem.
Members of the military are more conservatively minded people, but,moreover, they are overwhelmingly opposed to having homosexuals among theirranks. To then force these individuals to serve with gays only undermines themorale of the military. And when morale is undermined, the effectiveness of themilitary drops as well. The leadership of the military has always beenpersistent in its position-“Up and down the chain of command, you’ll findthe military leadership favors the ban.”.
And, as one navy lieutenant putit: “The military is a life-and-death business, not an equal opportunityemployer.” No one is doubting that gays have served in the military. Eversince Baron Frederich von Steuben (a renowned Prussian military-mind and knownhomosexual) served as a Major General in the Continental Army, there have beenhomosexuals serving in the military. Even today there exists a Gay AmericanLegion post in San Francisco.
However, the general consensus is that allowingthem in the service represents a rubber-stamping of their existence rather thana concerted effort to discourage it. Though the homosexual lobby often cites thefact that gays have always served in the military as a justification for liftingthe ban, this sort of reasoning is wrong. There are many other types of behaviorthat the military has been unable to completely eradicate, such as discharge anduse of illegal substances. No one would ever deny that these things happen inthe military. But the point is that if they were made legal, there would be moreinstances of them. To use the lack of perfect implementation as a pretext forlegalization is equally absurd in the civilian world: Do we legalize criminalbehavior on the grounds that “people have always done it”? Anotherparallel that is frequently drawn with gays in the military is that of thesituation of women in the military. Though largely a maleinstitution-“Symbolically, the military represents masculinity more thanany institution other than professional sports”-women have been a part of themilitary since World War II and the women’s support units have been abolishedsince 1978.But, like that of race to homosexuality, the comparison is invalid.
Women are not permitted in combat units -an exclusion that for homosexuals wouldbe hard to implement, at best. They also have separate barracks and facilities,which would be equally as unpractical to homosexuals. If the admission ofhomosexuals into the military causes adverse effects on the morale of thesoldiers, then the debate should be re-opened there. The military’s function isto protect democracy.
The sacrifices associated with military service may bevery great-up to giving up one’s life. Excluding homosexuals from militaryservice seems petty, everyone should be allowed to defend their country.Moreover, the politicizing of such issues undermines the military’s faith in thecivilian leadership that guides it. The military is quickly loosing itsprestige, its traditional conservative values, and that is a good thing for mostAmericans. Reinstating the ban would be a gesture of utter and sheerdigustedness in our military. Having homosexuals in the military is a matter ofmilitary effectiveness-not of the homosexuals’ ability to perform militaryduties, but of the morale of the military as a whole. And, in the military, itis always the good of the whole which must be considered before the good of theindividual.
The ending of the Cold War and the re-definition of the military’smission does not mean that we should make the military less effective. If apolicy in regards to the military does not improve its effectiveness, then itshould not be implemented. But when the implementation means giving a chance tofew who would like to serve out great nation, than it should be consideredlegal.