All Tell – No Ask

Ending Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell would open the door to endless lawsuits, detrimental PC-ification of military promotions, and wholly unnecessary social advocacy challenges to military family life.

Yecch.  I have not wanted to address this topic, because it is so freighted and painful for so many.  In light of Defense Secretary Gates’ statement from 30 June, however, that his department is looking at ways to enforce the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law from 1993 more selectively, with a view to its eventual repeal by Congress, now seems like as good a time as any to talk about gays in the military.

One reason it is important to do this is that the topic is seldom framed, by its advocates among the public – on either side – in terms that reflect an accurate assessment of its impact on military morale and operations.  For that kind of assessment, it really helps to have a career background as a military officer or senior NCO.  Many civilians have come up with concerns on both sides of the issue that are not insignificant – and the perspective of the average soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine is an even more important one, since these are the people who have to live, day to day, with whatever policy is implemented in our armed forces.

But neither the civilian with no uniformed experience, nor the junior enlisted servicemember, is typically in a position to recognize the force management hazards that policy decisions promise for the future.  We will see why that is as we proceed through the discussion.  Most advocates on both sides of this issue are looking at narrow cross-sections of the problem, and extrapolating from them with little thought for what is likely to actually happen.  It’s the latter – what is likely to actually happen – that ought to give us pause.

We may begin by outlining the arguments as they are usually made.  The advocates for open service by gays in the military usually make some or all of the following points:

1.  Gays are already serving in the military, but without affirmation of their sexual orientation.  Since their presence is manifestly not problematic, all we are doing with DADT is homage to an outdated concept of morality that few Americans still agree with.

2.  It is unfair, in fact unconstitutional (although the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise), to discriminate against prospective servicemembers based on sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not a basis for employment discrimination in the other agencies of the government, and should not be in the uniformed ranks of the military.

3.  The DADT policy is denying the nation the services of gays qualified in critical specialties, the one invariably adduced being “Arabic linguist.”  It is just absurd to be dismissing Arabic linguists from service because they are gay.

At this point, it is worth clarifying the “Arabic linguist” issue somewhat, for those who do not understand how people come to be linguists in the military.  The issue is usually reported as if the military has dismissed dozens of experienced linguists from positions in the field – this characterization mainly because those reporting the story don’t know any better.

Indeed, if more people thought about this reporting critically, they would probably wonder how quite so many Arabic speakers came to be gay.  What would be the odds that Arabic linguists would have such a high incidence of gays among them?  Arabic linguists are a tiny percentage of the whole armed forces, and yet, if we went by the numbers people think they know – e.g., “56 Arabic linguists dismissed because they were gay after 9/11” – we would be a bit stumped as to how it is that Arabic linguists keep turning up gay in this embarrassing and unmanageable way.

The narrative of the making of a linguist typically involves the servicemember going through boot camp, and being sent onward, either immediately or after other training, to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA.  A minority of linguists are native speakers, and although that minority varies by language, it is large in very few of them.  Most linguists, especially in the critical languages, learn their language at DLI, and if they have proficiency beforehand, it is from relatively rare high-school-level coursework.  (Few high schools are teaching Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Farsi, Urdu, or Pashto.)  When they graduate from a year of immersion training in their language, they are able to converse on basic topics and would do quite well hailing cabs, ordering in restaurants, and otherwise interacting with native speakers of the language they have been trained in.

They may then go through additional training in professional skills applicable to their disciplines, beyond the language proficiency.  (Examples would include training in analysis and reporting, for those going into intelligence.)  When they get to the field for their on-the-job training, they still have a steep ramp-up period adjusting to the linguistic peculiarities of whatever situation they find themselves in.  The slang nomenclature used by Serb soldiers or Chinese sailors or Urdu-speaking policemen, to refer to the features of their armed world, is not necessarily something generic immersion training in a language will impart.

A linguist has not become high-functioning until, typically, at least two years after first entering boot camp.  This fact put the following additional facts in context: that a large portion of the gay “linguists” who are dismissed from the armed forces are dismissed from DLI itself, and that most dismissals because of sexual orientation in general occur in the first 2-3 years of service.  In other words, linguists are often – I would say usually – dismissed before they have established a career as functioning professionals for the military.

The numbers break out as follows.  As of a GAO report from February 2005, DOD had dismissed 757 gay servicemembers from critical occupational specialties, in the period 1994-2004.  Of those, 322 were linguists, and 55 of those were Arabic linguists.  There is not a single, accurate figure on how many Arabic linguists have been dismissed since 9/11.  We know that of the 55 in GAO report, 17 were dismissed from DLI after 1998.  (See here for a useful excerpt from Nathaniel Frank’s book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.)

It is a discussion for another time, why linguists would represent such a high percentage of those dismissed from critical occupations because of being gay.  However, I believe senior officers would agree with me that most dismissals of gay servicemembers come about for one of two reasons:  the member decides he or she is gay, and makes the disclosure to the chain of command with the understanding and expectation that dismissal will follow; or the member makes unwanted overtures to a co-worker, and the situation becomes one in which the “Don’t Tell” part of the military policy must be upheld.  In fewer cases, dismissals occur because servicemembers form relationships with each other, and, whether lasting or not, those relationships become a discipline issue in the relevant work units, and inevitably result in disclosures in the disciplinary process.

The celebrated instances in which gay servicemembers are “outed” through leaving trails online, or in which they “out” themselves as political statements, are much rarer.  In either of the most typical cases, however, they are likely to occur in the first enlistment, and usually before the end of the third year of service.  The reason you don’t hear about them is that the typical gay dismissal does not involve a Lieutenant Michael Choi, or a Navy chief with nearly 20 years’ service obtaining fame in gay circles online.  It involves younger enlistees with much less experience and time in service.

Since the military doesn’t routinely release figures on all this, I can present anecdotal experience here, but not numbers.  Again, however, I would expect most officers and senior NCOs, who have had experience administering servicemembers in these situations, or who know colleagues who have, to concur with this assessment.

The experienced eye, then, looks at the numbers reported for linguist dismissals, and recognizes that most of them probably occurred before the linguists had established experience and long-term value in their roles.  Losing personnel is always of concern; I don’t want to suggest that it isn’t.  But we need to be clear on what we are talking about here, which is not, on average, the highest-functioning, most experienced and skilled linguists being ejected from the military after years of service.

Turning to the argument of those who prefer to keep DADT in place, it is usually made in terms of the following points:

1.  Military servicemembers have to work and live in very close quarters, and open homosexuality under those conditions would have a damaging effect on morale and discipline.  Men and women are berthed separately, and do not have to share living quarters (other than recreational areas), but gays would be sharing living quarters with members of the same sex.  Negative effects on morale and discipline have negative consequences for mission performance.

2.  The military should not be used for social experimentation.  In civilian life, people have the choice whether to bunk with gays of their own sex or not, but the military does not afford that choice, and it is unfair to put servicemembers in an involuntary position in this regard.

3.  Open service by gays will affect recruiting, among the many Americans who do not want to deny gay people civil rights, and in general have a “live and let live” attitude, but who object for various reasons to gay behavior, and are concerned about being forcibly exposed to it.

These, then, are the arguments typically mounted by the sides on this issue.  And there is always much to discuss with respect to each of them, as bloggers and TV hosts dive in and dissect the topic of gays in the military.  I would not dismiss any of these points as a fruitful subject of debate.  But they get a good airing in just about every debate – and the issue I think is of particular importance rarely, if ever does.  So that is the one I will focus on here.

The frame for this issue is the very first point made by the advocates for open service by gays in the military:

1.  Gays are already serving in the military, but without affirmation of their sexual orientation.  Since their presence is manifestly not problematic, all we are doing with DADT is homage to an outdated concept of morality that few Americans still agree with.

There is a world of truth in that first sentence.  It underlies everything in the DADT policy.  It is the hinge – the pivot point – of the whole issue:  Gays are already serving, without affirmation of their sexual orientation.  The flashpoint is not gays serving:  they already do.  The flashpoint – for politics, advocacy, morale, unit cohesion, discipline, team performance, and the rights of others to their own moral views – is the affirmation of sexual orientation.  It’s not the presence or service of gays that creates problems, it’s the affirmation of sexual orientation, and its unfolding in organizational policy.

From a very narrow perspective, commentators frequently address how “openly gay” service would unfold in policy.  Their comments often come across as touchingly naïve, and even foolish.  Since there are already gays in the military, they say, the only differences we would see are things like knowing for sure your good buddy Specialist Smith is gay, rather than just suspecting it, or Petty Officer Jones showing up with her girlfriend for Navy Day at the local baseball park, or Lance Corporal Miller not being afraid any more to be seen in a gay bar – and why should anybody be afraid of that?


After all, as some enlisted servicemembers themselves would argue, won’t existing rules of military conduct keep all members from engaging in public displays of affection while in uniform?  The military already has rules against improper romantic relationships that jeopardize order and discipline:  officer and enlisted, senior and junior in the chain of command, relationships that jeopardize workplace integrity.  These rules would prohibit inappropriate gay relationships as well as straight ones, right?

And why would servicemen’s patronage of gay prostitution be a worse problem than their patronage of the straight counterpart?  Where it’s illegal, it’s illegal either way, and is the same kind of command discipline issue.  Straight servicemembers get exposed to the temptation of recreational drugs, depending on their leisure activities; you don’t have to be gay to court that kind of danger to your career.  Sure, the statistical potential for contracting AIDS is unquestionably higher for gay men and drug users than for anyone else – but the military tests you for AIDS and drug use constantly anyway.  And since gays are already in the military, would that particular danger really increase, with open affirmation of sexual orientation?

Probably not.  This very typical litany makes the point that at least some of the practical side of having openly gay servicemembers would pose little, in the way of command management issues, that is different from what commands already have to manage.  In a force of nearly 2 million people whose average age is 24, you’re going to have command management issues.  Why should the ones created by openly gay soldiers or airmen be significantly different?

If I had to answer that question with one word, I would choose this one:  Lawyers.  Because “the” issue with gays in the military is not serving alongside gays, which many in uniform already do.  It’s the military being leveraged as a pretext for radical gay advocacy, through lawsuit, other legal harassment, intimidation of senior officials and commanders, and Congressional inquiry.

And I’m going to prove to you that if Congress changes our law to allow openly gay military service, such radical advocacy is exactly what we will see.

It does not matter that the vast majority of gay servicemembers would rather serve with their heads down, their noses clean, and as part of a cohesive team, just doing their honorable service to America.  I know that’s how the vast majority of them would behave, and would want things to be.  I know that.  A lot of people do.

But it doesn’t matter:  because their commonsensical and large-minded attitude would not prevent legal advocacy groups – e.g., the Lambda Legal Foundation – from making homosexuality a visible, divisive, and distracting issue for the military, for various of its commands, and even for military family life, using the wedge of a tiny number of gay servicemen and women.

Consider the question of positive affirmation of different demographic groups in federal employment, and how that is executed in practice.  Federal agencies celebrate, for instance, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Women’s History Month, and so on.  Naturally, the services would be expected to add Gay and Lesbian Pride Month to their calendar, as the State Department does.

Perhaps this addition would be undertaken on the relatively permissive, non-coercive basis on which the military has observed the traditional monthly celebrations, with the default understanding that any individual’s absence from planned events (which is common even among those whose “group” is being honored) is not evidence, ipso facto, of intolerance or antipathy.  We can hope so.  Do I have any takers on a bet that at least someone, somewhere, will interpret failure to engage, in Gay Pride Month events, as the creation of a hostile work environment?

We should note, moreover, that senior commanders typically send greetings to their forces in honor of the groups being celebrated each month.  There may well be some commanders whose religious or moral views balk at such an endorsement of people grouped by sexual orientation.  And it is entirely just to ask what possible relationship there is, between a willingness to make celebratory endorsements based on sexual orientation, and fitness for military command.  These same commanders would have no problem at all commending individual gay soldiers and sailors for heroism, or service above and beyond the call of duty.  Commending them, in other words, for their professional performance.  How would we be advancing the readiness of our military by requiring the commanders to specifically affirm the soldiers’ sexual orientation – which gay service advocates insist, incidentally, is not relevant to military performance?

We wouldn’t, of course.  But who thinks flag and general officers would be allowed to pick and choose which group affirmations they signed their names to?

There would undoubtedly be an organization of gay servicemembers, similar to Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), that would adopt a mission of advocacy related to family issues and the workplace environment for gays.  GLIFAA provides a link to the Gay and Lesbian Pride Month calendar of events for June 2009, which is a good indicator of what we could expect the uniformed military to have to make decisions about in terms of participation and public appearances.  Capitol Parades are included, for example, which military members would undoubtedly be urged, by some advocacy groups, to march in wearing their uniforms.

Some servicemembers, of course, like their Canadian counterparts in Toronto, would volunteer to march.  But suppose DOD went further and decided to order military participation; by unit, for example, and including straight servicemembers?  Should our civilian leadership be allowed to do such a thing?

If you are sure that couldn’t happen, consider the case of the San Diego firefighters who were ordered by their superior to participate in a gay pride parade – as a departmental activity.  They sued the city and eventually won their case:  but not on the basis that they should not have to participate in parades whose purpose they disagree with.  The complaint that got them a favorable judgment was that they were subjected, during the parade, to leering and harassing behavior.

If we agreed that participating in gay pride parades has nothing whatsoever to do with fitness and performance in fighting fires for the public, how much more might we agree that it has nothing to do with fighting foreign enemies to keep our nation secure?  Yet there is nothing that would prevent lawsuits from being brought against the military for a failure to positively engage in such demonstrations.

Nor could we assume that a commander who remained neutral or agnostic on a subordinate’s advocacy activities, rather than embracing them, would be backed by his seniors in his effort to avoid distraction, or extraneous declarations.  It is, rather, reasonably certain that his chain of command, once the civilian level was reached, would require him to make gestures of positive endorsement.  The record of our civilian leadership is poor in any corner of government, in the matter of standing up to pressure of this kind from advocacy groups.

Other activities outlined on the State Department’s Gay Pride Month calendar include movie nights hosted at State Department facilities abroad.  Perhaps no one would much care if a gay military organization used the military base theater for showings of Milk or Philadelphia.  There might well be objections, however, to something like a Queer as Folk marathon, given the Showtime series’ content.

As the event described in the linked article indicates, another venue in which the military could expect to be challenged is the retail sales system, or AAFES.  AAFES’ promotional tone has always been family-friendly, in the sense of avoiding sexualization and “adult” content.  Base Exchange shoppers are largely military family members, who do not expect to encounter gay-themed promotions when they are looking for household items or children’s clothes.

AAFES, the military club system, and the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) organizations would all be likely to face divisive decisions about promotions, content, and sponsorship.  MWR – which is largely funded by AAFES profits, and partly by servicemember contributions and volunteer fund-raising efforts – runs ballfield, park, and swimming pool facilities much used by families, as well as by single servicemembers.  We can be sure that such issues would come up as gay hand-holding and kissing during family free-swim at the MWR pool, and gay organizations wanting to hold “Gay Pride Theme parties” at MWR picnic facilities frequented by families, Girl Scouts, and kids’ soccer teams.  Similar decision points would face the military clubs.

Indeed, we could expect gay challenges to virtually every aspect of daily life and family life on military bases.  When servicemembers were not in uniform, it would not be possible to prevent them from public displays of affection in the public areas of the base.  Since many junior enlisted live in barracks on base, and many families live in on-base family housing, the issue of what parents want their children to have to be exposed to would inevitably come up.

But beyond that, the whole military system of family support would be begging to be leveraged in lawsuits targeting US law on marriage and domestic partnerships.  Military family housing is reserved for traditional families, in which there are at least a husband and wife, or a parent and children.  We could expect lawsuits demanding military recognition of gay marriage, for the purpose of assignment to military family housing, almost immediately.  All it would take is one gay servicemember with a marriage concluded in Massachusetts or Vermont to get the ball rolling on this, at a major base in Texas, Virginia, Illinois, or Florida.

Lawsuits would not be restricted to seeking the recognition of gay marriage, of course.  It’s likely that, in the wake of the State Department’s pioneering effort in this regard, the military would be pressured to extend the amily member benefits incident to overseas assignment to gay domestic partners, as an issue separate from the recognition of marriage per se.  This would probably create even more problems for the military overseas than in some US states – but in either case, it would raise a concern for many military families.  In overseas locations, that is of particular importance given the lack of viable alternative housing options – a circumstance that is more common for families in overseas assignments than for single servicemembers.

Of course, military members choosing each other as domestic partners, or marrying each other in states where gay marriage is recognized, would be certain to occur as well, as Canada’s experience has shown.  This prospect, especially as it unfolded in Canada’s first same-sex military nuptials, ushers in another:  the likelihood of lawsuits for same-sex marriage in military chapels, which today are governed by the laws of the states in which they are located – and may be restricted in their latitude by the laws of host nations overseas.

Naturally, the implication of military chapels in marriage ceremonies raises the whole issue of religious belief and organizational policy.  None of Christians, Jews, or Muslims agree among themselves, in practice, on the positions of their faiths regarding homosexuality.  But all three faiths have texts, and doctrine adhered to by very large segments of their worshippers, that regard it as a sin.  Some – probably most – military chaplains would be unwilling to perform a same-sex marriage, because of their beliefs.  The likelihood that there would be no chaplain willing to perform a same-sex ceremony at a given time, even at the largest military facilities, is strong.  There is never a guarantee that either Christian or Jewish clergy from a theologically liberal tradition will be available to requite worshippers of the same persuasion.  Muslim clergy would not, of course, be an option for performing a same-sex marriage.

The option of bringing in an outside clergyman, to perform a ceremony in a military chapel, might satisfy gay servicemembers – if, of course, the other issues like the legal meaning of the service, in a state where same-sex unions are not recognized, could be ironed out.  What the military would be obliged to support or acknowledge is clearly not evident here.  Presumably the starting position would be that DOD is governed by the Congressional Defense of Marriage Act – but the pretexts for lawsuits challenging DOMA, as an “equal protection” issue, would abound.  We should not be too quick to assume adherence to DOMA in the civilian leadership in the Pentagon either, given that the State Department’s decisions on same-sex partner benefits this spring were made by Hillary Clinton in a specific reversal of previous DOS policy that invoked DOMA.

Religious belief itself, separately from the issue of gay servicemembers desiring military-recognized same-sex unions, could also become the subject of sanctions in the military workplace:  measures and attitudes that could well affect promotion, and open the door to assertions of grievance that, under DADT, there is no pretext for.

The case of a Los Angeles police officer is instructive in this regard.  While off-duty, and in his capacity as pastor of a Los Angeles church, he quoted a passage from 1 Corinthians in which Paul, the author, lists those who are “unrighteous” and will not inherit the Kingdom of God:  a list that includes homosexuals.  Following this religious service – at a private funeral for a colleague, not sponsored by the LAPD – other police made complaints to supervisors about his choice of text.  Since that event he has been moved to another department and denied promotion nine times.

Now, I never once heard a chaplain preach on homosexuality in 20 years in the military, and if one ever quoted this particular passage in 1 Corinthians, or another that calls homosexuality a sin, I don’t remember it.  I don’t know that the LA police officer was even making a pointed comment about homosexuality, but I do know that I never once encountered a military chaplain who did.  It is simply not the main thing chaplains, or people of any faith, are thinking about.  So I would not expect the issue of a military chaplain preaching against homosexuality to even come up.

But I can well imagine the subject coming up in Bible study discussion groups, which are often led by laypeople, and range over a variety of topics, some sensitive or difficult.  I can imagine a chaplain being challenged to state his opinion on the words of the Bible or the Qu’ran that prohibit homosexuality as a sin, and being accused of creating a hostile work environment if he said he took them at face value and agreed with them.  In fact, I can imagine any military member, especially a senior officer or NCO, being challenged on his or her religious beliefs about homosexuality, with the implication that adherence to the statements of the religious texts amounts to inherent prejudice against subordinates or peers.

Of course patterns of challenge like this wouldn’t be the “norm.”  Most gay servicemembers have no interest in creating such freighted situations.  But neither was it the “norm” for women in the military to bring lawsuits alleging discrimination and prejudice, particularly in regard to skill qualification or promotion.  Nevertheless, a few did, and the cases in which senior officers saw their careers end due to such allegations – very hard to prove one way or the other – were instructive for an entire generation, in ways that did not benefit military cohesion or performance.

A political presumption that allegations of this kind are valid has never had a positive effect on workplace morale; it creates, instead, distrust, where members of the alleged victim class are concerned.  It can also result in “social promotions” and looser standards of qualification that, in military situations, prove fatal – as with the case of Navy Lieutenant Kara Hultgreen, the pilot who crashed her F-14 fighter jet while trying to recover on USS Abraham Lincoln in 1994.  A leaked copy of the investigation report indicated that she had been qualified and sent to the fleet in spite of numerous warnings from instructors, and four “downs,” or serious failures of performance – one or two of which typically cause a male pilot to wash out of the carrier aviation pipeline.

Hultgreen herself did not have a history of making allegations about discrimination.  Nor is the issue that either women or homosexuals are especially likely to be incompetent.  Rather, it is that the avenue of alleging discrimination (or even harassment) is available to them in a way it is not to other servicemembers.  This avenue is used by some whose performance is, in fact, substandard, and it both complicates evaluations of their particular cases, and has resulted, through political intervention, in professional setbacks, and the end of careers, for supervisors and seniors unfortunate enough to have to make decisions about them.

In the case of openly gay servicemembers, the risk is created of others’ military careers being held hostage in two ways:  first, to politically correct affirmations about the sexual orientation of peers or troops; and second, to the possibility that professional evaluations of troops will be litigated on the pretext of accusations about discrimination.  These are separate vulnerabilities, which may occur together, or separately.

It is cheap and easy for those outside the situation to proclaim that military officers should simply prioritize personnel performance standards and safety above the pressures of politics, and concern for their own careers.  Of course they should.  But their nation is doing them a grave disservice when it makes this a choice – and for no valid reason.

Under DADT, an officer or senior NCO may very well supervise troops whom he supposes are gay, and not care about their sexual orientation.  He evaluates them professionally, and works with them as comrades, concerned for their performance, advancement, and welfare.  They do not have to know his sentiments about homosexuality, and he does not have to know theirs.  There is no pretext for professional discrimination on the basis of a soldier’s homosexuality; his superiors are not supposed to either know about it, or act based on suspicions.

If gays were to serve openly, it may well be that 99 out of 100 would continue, in practical terms, on the same basis.  But the one who forced confrontations on others in uniform, demanding positive affirmations from them rather than silence, complaining that their religious beliefs create a hostile work environment, demanding their positive involvement in gay pride demonstrations as evidence of tolerance, demanding their acceptance of gay behavior in recreational and family venues, accusing his seniors of discriminating against him, and acting as the wedge to litigation of every aspect of military administration – that one would set up professionally fatal choices for NCOs and officers all the way up his chain of command.

Such choices have absolutely no place in determining the fitness of those NCOs and officers for their positions of responsibility and leadership in the military.  Indeed, it is not hyperbolic to ask what could possibly possess our nation to set up its military leaders in this unconscionable way.  Besides asking them to spend their time looking for solutions to incorporation of gay-themed promotions and events into military family life, would we ask them also to risk litigation, investigation, and policy upheavals with every professional evaluation they make of their subordinates, and risk being accused and disciplined if they will not renounce their religious beliefs?

What in the world does any of this have to do with military readiness?

Before you start in on the “Arabic linguists,” readers, ask yourselves if you think it is really the case that we need gay soldiers serving openly in order to have Arabic linguists.  There is zero chance that the 50-some who have been dismissed to date for being gay were all native speakers.  Probably either none or fewer than a handful of them were, given the general patterns of linguist accessions and gay discharges.  Virtually all of them undoubtedly learned Arabic at DLI.  Consider carefully whether you think it is really necessary to allow gays to serve openly, in order to train a sufficient number of Arabic linguists for the military’s needs.

(It is also a fair question why, since all recruits coming into the military understand the DADT policy, gay personnel would join and then reveal their orientation, in the numbers seen to date.  Almost none of them make a political issue of their dismissal.  Experienced personnel managers could tell you that some enlistees use self-identification as homosexual to obtain release from their service obligation, although there is no basis for making that conclusion about cases on which we have no relevant information.  Nevertheless, it does happen, and may have occurred in some of the gay discharges summarized by GAO in 2005.)

In 2009, it is – there is no other term – idiotic to believe that gays can serve openly in the military without a trail of lawsuits in their wake.  The great majority of gays indeed have no interest in litigation; but it requires little effort to discover that there is no aspect of public or private life in America in which gays have not brought lawsuits, or in which gay advocacy has not resulted in lawsuits by those professionally or personally harmed by it.  From a California police officer who (in spite of documented performance deficiencies) has sued alleging that he has suffered professional discrimination because he is gay, to an ex-undersheriff who (in spite of being accused of perjury regarding the fatal beating of a suspect in custody) has sued alleging that she was fired because she is gay, to a Georgia psychiatrist who was fired by the CDC because, as a Christian, she felt unqualified to counsel a lesbian on her romantic relationship, and instead found her another counselor, to the Tennessee school system that was sued by the ACLU to allow access to gay websites from its school computers, to the Florida high school sued by the ACLU to host meetings of a students’ gay-straight alliance group, to the Methodist children’s home in Georgia named in a lawsuit to stop state support to it because it hires only Christians as workers, and fired a lesbian worker because of her sexual orientation, to the Missouri State student who sued after being accused by a professor of violating school standards because she refused to sign a petition in favor of gay adoptions, to the gay Teamster who sued UPS for not considering the work transfer of his partner in the same light as the transfer of a spouse, and giving him preference for transfer himself, to the Massachusetts father who objected to same-sex story material being presented in public school to his 6-year-old son, and who was subsequently jailed overnight, and ultimately had his civil rights lawsuit dismissed by a federal district court judge – the record of litigation is broad-based and robust.

It does not matter whether there is a current intention, on the part of gay advocacy groups, to begin pressing social issues on the military, challenging the rights of its members to their personal religious or moral views, or bringing lawsuits against it.  The existence and activities of the Lambda Legal Foundation, and the caseload of the ACLU, argue that there may well be; but such an intention cannot be proven in advance.  What is incontrovertible is that the DADT policy now in place averts the potential pretexts for all such pressure, challenges, and litigation.  As long as no servicemember is allowed, in his official capacity, to ask about the sexual orientation of another, and none is required to divulge his own sexual orientation, none of the litigable issues arise.

Gay behavior may sometimes create its own set of social issues, as those concerned about quality of barracks life, and unit morale, correctly point out.  It does not have to, but it will, in at least some cases, because humans are imperfect and fallible – and are especially prone to foolishness when their average age is that of the college undergrad.  It is questionable what the value is of opening new doors for friction and misconduct, but the great majority of it could, all things being equal, be managed through the existing tools of military discipline, and the general articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It is, however, the policy implications of positively affirming sexual orientation that would have the more pervasive and longer-term impact on the military.  It is not an overstatement to predict that lawsuits and political pressure are inevitable, in areas of military and family life that few are considering today.  It is extremely likely that the right of servicemembers to hold religious and moral views, without being accused of intolerance and hostility, would be challenged.  It is likely that supervisors would be accused of discrimination because of sexual orientation, in at least some cases of professional delinquency by subordinates.  It is further likely that at least some senior personnel accused in this manner would find themselves used by politicians to impress constituency groups and set examples – to the detriment of their military careers and professional prospects.

Add to those pressures the impact of radical advocacy on military family life, and the likelihood begins to grow that more members of our volunteer military would choose, over time, to cease subjecting themselves to the sentence of a captive audience for radical themes.  I predict the following, based on the trends of gay advocacy elsewhere in the federal government, in state governments, and in private workplaces:  ending the DADT policy will result in US military personnel being required to positively affirm same-sex sexual orientation, in both on and off-duty situations, at peril of their promotability and eligibility for desirable assignment, including command.

The suite of issues here – litigation, work environment, religious tolerance, criteria for promotion – is inherent with open homosexuality in the military.  Our history of civil rights law makes it so.  It is utterly disingenuous to insist otherwise.  Those who owe an explanation of their position on this are not the ones who ask “why not?”, regarding this outcome, but “why?”  The question remains, what does enforced positive affirmation of sexual orientation have to do with military fitness or readiness?

25 thoughts on “All Tell – No Ask”

  1. Fuster! Is that you?

    I’m really surprised at Commentary’s cutting us off. Maybe lester’s been right all along. Nah.

    In any event, JED can take up the slack, if she’s willing. What say you, JED? Just lay out the rules, I’ll behave….promise!

  2. JED:

    What is it with your clock? As near as I can tell, you have located me in Burkina Faso! Please, bring me home!

  3. materialist — the clock locates us in Greenwich, England, where they keep the Greenwich Mean Time locked up. It’s the blog default. Another WordPress blogger has told me I can change that, but I rather like it.

    C.K. MacLeod is cogitating as we speak on a potential new blog rally for contentionistas. If you haven’t communicated thoughts to him, but would like to, his email address (which he posted at the JPod notification, until it disappeared into the alternate space-time continuum) is:

    We’re all in an existential paralysis at the moment, I think, as contentions evolves, and fights IT gremlins at the same time. I imagine we’ll have much smarter looks on our faces sometime next week.

  4. JED:

    Will do.

    Incidentally, I did take the time to read a couple of your posts. Good stuff. It might be habit-forming.

    P.S. The time zone may be Greewich, but Apple “Date and Time” identified it as Burkina Faso. And who am I to dispute the great Steve Jobs? Besides, the bloody Brits deserve it. As arrogant as Berkeley liberals (and, often, an overlapping set).

  5. A very good article; and persuasive re the likely problems that will ensue when DADT ends. But I fear its end is as inevitable as the steady racheting up of government spending.

  6. That’s what you get for going the Apple route, materialist. 🙂

    Actually, my sister works for Apple, so although MS’ evil progeny are now hard-wired in my DNA, I still (heart) Apple.

    There’s more than one way, these days, that England could be mistaken for Burkina Faso.

  7. The line of argument that you leave out – not saying you should have included it here, though I would be interested in your take at some point – would be the view that creating a socially experimental military that increasingly adopts and enforces civilian mores is itself intrinsically deleterious to the military. US preponderance in conventional arms and the nature of our major contemporary engagements may make it easier for us to engage in such experimentation, but, if we ever again find ourselves in a real fight, we may regret it. On the other hand, there may be absolutely nothing to be done about it.

  8. CKM — a key argument used to counter yours is that it hasn’t rendered the military ineffective to have more women in it. This resonates with a lot of people, at least at a relatively significant (not superficial) level, because there have been passionate arguments for decades against putting women into even the jobs they used to be eligible for, before Congress opened up others in 1994.

    And of course, before that, there was a time when it was argued that it would injure morale and effectiveness if black and white Americans had to serve alongside each other, bunk together, and so forth.

    The argument that women aren’t suited to some kinds of jobs is a much stronger one than the old arguments about “mixing of the races,” which we’d all call idiotic today.

    But although these are two different situations and arguments, and open homosexuality is yet a third, my opinion is that a strong debating stance is undermined by ceding the idea that they can all be lumped together under “social experimentation.”

    There are good reasons why the sane and appropriate decision to just have different races all serve together is NOT experimental in the same way as forcing military families to encounter gay behavior at the base picnic ground.

    Instead of spending a lot of time explaining those reasons, I think the whole position — keep DADT — is better served by focusing on the downside of the consequences I outlined in the piece.

    Most people really do have a “live and let live” attitude about homosexuality, and that is precisely why the main point has to be made that open gay service will NOT be a live-and-let-live proposition. It can’t be one. It will force people, family by family and soldier by soldier, to make overt decisions about what they will stick around and tolerate. In doing so, it will distort the environment of command prerogative, requiring commands to enforce on people the expression of sentiments and opinions that ought to remain personal — and can, if we stay with DADT.

  9. CK – “if we ever again find ourselves in a real fight, we may regret it. ”

    In that event – assuming there’s time to recognize the threat and/or for recovery after a significant defeat – such experimental measures would quickly go by the boards in line with the old saw – ‘When the going gets rough they send for the sumbitches.’

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