In 1999, more than 1,000 men and women were discharged from military service due to their sexuality. That number has actually decreased compared to recent years. (Suro NP) Homosexuals were purged from federal employment in 1950, with Bill Clinton updating that policy in 1993 by adding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy. (Deicher 176) This policy doesn’t work and needs to either be updated again or the ban against homosexuals lifted. Gays should be allowed to fight for the military for employment reasons, the right to fight for one’s country, and because they are no different from anyone else. The fact of the matter is that not even experts can argue in favor of keeping the ban on gays in the military. With such strong evidence, lifting the ban should be the first priority for the newly elected president of the year 2000.
Throughout the years, homosexuals have been the targets of embarrassment, harassment, and criticism from society. The most dominant and publicized way this is shown is by the ban on gays and lesbians in the military. We are one of few countries that forbid homosexuals to serve in their country’s armed forces. Germany, Japan, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Spain, and many other dominant countries in the world allow and encourage everyone in their culture to fight for their country. (Hogan and Hudson 185) We are actually hurting our country’s military by forcing possible volunteers to stay home and watch the news when they could be fighting for our country, just because of their sexuality. It is so ridiculous that letters are sent out to recruit U.S. men to fight in the army, but they wouldn’t accept you if you are not a heterosexual.
The ban on gays in the military started in 1950. It was unchanged for 43 years until President Clinton came to office. He said in his campaign that he would abolish the ban on gays in the military. When he said this, he triggered a wave of homosexuals, previously in the armed forces, and currently enrolled at that time, to state their homosexuality, and “come out of the closet”. With thousands of gays doing this in a span of two years, Clinton’s promise was shot out of reach. His only hope was to improve on the law already in place, and he did so by adding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 1993. This policy made it legal for homosexuals to be in the military, as long as they didn’t state their sexuality. It also made it against the law to ask openly if a person is a homosexual or not. The policy was supposed to be law and obeyed, by everyone in the service.
This policy turned out to be a flop and wasn’t taken very seriously, as the higher ranked officers did not punish violators of the rule and some didn’t abide by it themselves. So later on, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was modified to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy, to try and cut down on violators of this law. This has been working to a point, but needs to be changed to teach and inform all members of the army about gays and lesbians, and to also discipline quickly and severely the members of the military that would be considered harassment, including verbal abuse, sometimes known as gay bashing.
The U.S. Military provides a very extensive line of employment. Whether it is an 18-year-old trying to pay for collage, or an older citizen working to support their family, the military is a great place to work. By having a ban against gays in the military, thousands of homosexuals can just eliminate the army, navy, marines, etc. from a choice in employment for them. Some of those people might not be able to pay for collage and hoped that the military would provide money for their education and because of the ban could not expand their education. Hundreds of gays in our country may not have an extensive line of skills to go into the work world and make a living for themselves. The fact is that the military’s half century-old ban on gays denies an entire class of American citizens the only chance that many of them will get at employment. (Deicher 167-168)
Job performance in military service and in the work place is in no way affected by being a homosexual. Most of the reason the ban on gays in the military is in place is based on the theory that homosexuals and heterosexuals cannot work with each other in close quarters. This isn’t true and doesn’t affect anyone on the job. Gay and lesbians are common people seen everyday and are no different from heterosexual people. (Deicher 185) A survey conducted by the Washington Post said that roughly one in three Americans knows someone that is openly gay and those people tend to think better of gays by knowing one. (Herek 2 of 5) Also, every single study conducted by the Pentagon or by an investigative arm of Congress since 1957 has concluded that there is no basis for the ban on gays and lesbians. (Deicher 192) Dr. Herek concluded that, “The research data shows that there is nothing about lesbians and gay men that makes them inherently unfit for military service, and there is nothing about heterosexuals that makes them inherently unable to work and live with gay people in close quarters.” (Herek 2 of 5) The Defense Personnel Security Research and Education Center’s (PERSEREC) report “Nonconforming Sexual Orientations and Military Suitability” in December of 1988 said straightforwardly that homosexuality relates to job performance as left-or right-handedness does, period.
Admittedly, gays in the military have caused problems; however, with stricter enforcement, problems would be greatly reduced. Gays in the military have raised many problems ranging from verbal conflicts to murder. Countless times has a suspected gay person been harassed either a fellow peer, or a higher ranked officer. Usually harassment overlooked by others leads to murder and devastates countless families. Berry Winchell was one of many men harassed because of his sexuality. He loved being in the 101st Airborne and dreamed of being a helicopter pilot. He only had one nightmare: that someone would find out his sexuality and end his army career. With research and putting the clues together, a few people found out that Berry Winchell was gay, but because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, they couldn’t approach him about it. A fellow military man killed Winchell in January 1998 during a drunken brawl, which started because of a remark about his sexuality. (Thompson 1 of 3) This is one of so many cases of death because of sexuality, especially in the military. Many of these cases, including Winchell’s case, were under speculation by higher command and were not attended to because of laziness and embarrassment. Right now there are no rules in place for with holding information about whether or not someone is gay. Stricter rules should be made to help ensure the safety of harassed individuals, which punish the people, involved openly and severely. Americans automatically think negatively when the word gay or homosexual comes up in a conversation. This is where the idea comes that these types of people are lower class. As said by Kendall Thomas, a Professor of law at Columbia University, “We consider people who engage in this conduct to be second-class citizens.” Recently on February 1, 2000, the armed services launched new training programs to reduce harassment of gay men and women. These new programs advise commanders to investigate all complaints thoroughly of gay bashing, whether it is verbally or physically. They are aimed at making the six year old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass” policy more effective. This is a big step in helping those affected by harassment and gay bashing. More of these programs need to be set up to inform and educate personnel about homosexuals to show that they are no different from anyone else.
Fixing the military’s ban on gays and lesbians will require a lot of work and cannot be fixed overnight. Solutions are time consuming, but will overall provide a better way of running the nations military. The first step is to establish clear norms that sexual orientation is irrelevant to performing one’s duty and that everyone should be judged on his own merits. The next step is to establish and teach false stereotypes about gay men and lesbians through education and sensitivity training for all personnel. Next, setting uniform standards for public conduct that would apply equally to heterosexual and homosexual personnel will make it clear that everyone is affected by these new rules. To reduce and ultimately stop harassment, the military will have to establish that all sexual harassment is unacceptable regardless of the genders or sexual orientations of individuals involved. And finally, everyone has to take a firm and highly publicized stand that violence against gay personnel is unacceptable and will be punished quickly and severely. (Herek 3 of 5) These ideas for a new and totally rebuilt policy will not hurt, but help everyone involved. Ultimately these ideas would make homosexuality less of an issue in the work place as well as society. They would also make life easier and fairer to everyone, and finally would create a better way of living.
Deicher, David. The Question of Equality. New York: Testing the Limits, 1995.
Goldwater, Barry M. "Ban on Gays is Senseless Attempt to Stall the Inevitable." Los Angelos
Times: 1. 3 Mar. 2000
Herek, Gregory. “Gays in the Military:Compromising National Security.” Non Line (1997): 7. 4
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Hogan, Steve, and Lee Hudson. Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. Canada:
Henry Holt and Company, 1998.
Kelley, Kevin T. "Your Life is Filled With Questions. We're Here to Help Find Answers." The ggggggU.S. Army Reserves. 2000.
Suro, Robert. “Military Tries to Reduce Harassment of Gays.” Washington Post 2 Feb. 2000: 8.
6 Feb. 2000