Now that the Pentagon has released its long-awaited report assessing the potential impact of ending the policy banning homosexuals from openly serving in the United States armed forces, anyone have a guess as to what excuse those opposed to lifting the ban will try next? First, let’s review.
The oldest excuse for banning gay men and women from military service is that they are unsuited to life in the armed forces, sex perverts that they are. The first formal, service-wide policy banning gays from military service was passed by Congress in 1917. Punitive Article 93 of the Articles of War lists “sodomy” along with several other “various crimes,” including
manslaughter; mayhem, arson, burglary, housebreaking, robbery, larceny, embezzlement, perjury, forgery . . . assault with intent to commit any felony, assault with intent to do bodily harm with a dangerous weapon, instrument, or other thing, or assault with intent to do bodily harm[.]
It’s still a commonly held attitude among supporters of the current policy. Gay people, they just ain’t right! Why else would they do . . . you know. Today we live in a more enlightened age. We now know that homosexuality is a natural and normal variation in human sexual orientation. It’s not perverse, it’s not aberrant, and there’s no essential harm to it. It’s rather like heterosexuality, actually.
Another excuse, closely related to that first one, is that gays aren’t tough enough to make it as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Most people who count gay people among their friends, family members, or colleagues, or are gay themselves, know better than this. “Gay” does not equal “Quentin Crisp.” (And who the hell’s to say Crisp wouldn’t have made a damn fine soldier, anyway?) The fact that there have been thousands upon thousands of gay men and women serving secretly in the American military with honor and distinction from the revolution right up to the present day also does quite a handy job of disposing of this excuse.
“It would endanger the mission” — that’s another one you hear often enough if you pay attention to this subject. In 1981 it became the official excuse. The military, as apologists for the bigoted policy of discrimination are so fond of saying, is no place for social experimentation. How allowing gay people, who have been a part of every human population that has ever existed, to openly join the American military qualifies as a social experiment is beyond my understanding.
This, like the toughness excuse, and the fears over the possible damage to unit cohesion that are the cause of much disingenuous arm-wringing, is also refuted by the present reality. Gay men and women are in the military right this very second. To avoid being discharged, they cannot make their orientation officially known, but many are what one might call openly closeted. Their sexual orientation is a well-known secret. Dan Choi, the decorated former lieutenant in the Army National Guard, claims that the men under his command knew he was gay, and that it was never an issue.
Now, just today, comes the Pentagon report, which has been the most recent excuse clung to by cowardly politicians. “I’ll wait for the report before making up my mind” said many members of Congress from both major parties. The report, which includes the results of one of the largest surveys of current and former military personnel ever conducted, finds that 70% of its over 115,000 respondents predicted that allowing gays to serve openly would have “a positive, mixed, or no effect.” Of those who served in units with comrades whom they knew or believed to be gay, 92% described their unit’s ability to work together as “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.” There’s also a nice lengthy section where the authors tell military chaplains who have been bitching and whining about the prospect of gays being allowed to serve openly to suck it up and get over it.
With the release of the Pentagon report, this is all but a done deal. It’s all over but the crying — and yet it’s the crying I’m most interested in at the moment. So I ask you: with the aforementioned excuses all out the window, what the anti-gay bigots who oppose lifting the ban try next? What’s the next excuse? Will they finally just come out and admit that they think two dudes kissing is gross and that’s what this has always been about? Or will it be something else?