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The Intolerance and Bigotry of Openly Gay Military Service

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Posted on March 1 2010 6:00 am

Uncle Sam’s old recruiting poster — “I Want You for U.S. Army” — stands soon to be replaced by warnings that servicemen who fail to affirm open homosexuality will be blacklisted and drummed out of the service.

In early February, I published a column and a blog post at the American Spectator, urging retention of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I argued that giving lesbians and homosexuals a specially protected legal status would inevitably lead to infringing upon the First Amendment rights of religious believers and cultural traditionalists.

This is true, I noted, for several reasons. First, the gay lobby demands not just tolerance of lesbians and homosexuals, but explicit affirmation of the same. Consequently, the gay lobby will litigate against religious believers and cultural traditionalists who do not acquiesce to its agenda. This, in fact, already has happened — and is happening — in the civilian world.

Moreover, the litigious nature of American society almost will require that these issues be fought out in the courts, where cultural traditionalists and religious believers have very few allies.

Finally, as a practical matter, the hierarchical nature of the military tends to suppress free thought and intellectual dissent.

In fact, intellectual uniformity and compliance tend to be enforced within the military and sometimes in a rather heavy-handed manner. (The Marine Corps is the notable exception to this rule. The Corps actively encourages intellectual exploration and dissent; however, the Marines are a unique and special breed.)

All of which argues, I wrote, for maintaining the current policy: because the current policy allows gay men and women to serve discreetly and without conflict, and to do so without making a legal issue of their sexual status and sexual orientation.

The American Spectator’s Philip Klein then wrote a thoughtful blog post in which he took exception to my case. Philip said my concerns were exaggerated and overblown. “To me, it’s hard to see what the fuss is about,” he wrote.

Well, it should be less hard now in light of recent Air Force censorship. The censorship occurred last week and involves the president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins.

Mr. Perkins had been invited (last October) to speak at a prayer luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base. But two days after the State of the Union Address, in which President Obama called for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Air Force rescinded Perkins’ invitation.

The reason: Perkins had spoken out in support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; and this, he was told by the Air Force, made his views “incompatible [for] military members who serve our elected officials and our Commander-in-Chief.”

Perkins is a veteran of the Marine Corps and an ordained minister. He expressed his dismay at being censored in two separate documents, a policy update and a press release, both published last week by the Family Research Council:

As one who took the oath to defend and protect our freedoms, I am disappointed that I’ve been denied the opportunity to speak to members of the military, in a non-political way, solely because I exercised my free speech rights in a different forum.

It’s ironic that this blacklisting should occur because I called for the retention and enforcement of a valid federal statute…

Unfortunately, this is just a precursor of things to come in a post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military. This legislation would more than open the armed forces to homosexuals; it would lead to a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone who disapproves of homosexuality…

Military chaplains would bear the heaviest burden. Would their sermons be censored to prevent them from preaching on biblical passages which describe homosexual conduct as a sin?

Moreover, according to CNSNews, which, together with the Washington Times, broke the story:

“The [Air Force] Chaplain’s Office retracted Mr. Perkins’ invitation after his recent public comments made many who planned to attend the event uncomfortable,” the Andrews base public affairs office said in a statement issued late Thursday, [February 25].

Censoring military veterans, ordained ministers, religious believers, cultural traditionalists, and civic-minded leaders like Tony Perkins is dismaying; however, it is, sadly, not surprising.

It is, in fact, the inevitable end result of a series of statements made by key political and military leaders to the effect that being gay is on a par with being black or Asian. Never mind that being gay is, as Colin Powell pointed out back in 1993, a behavioral characteristic, whereas being black or Asian absolutely is not a behavioral characteristic.

Nonetheless, say key political and military leaders, gays must be accorded a specially protected legal status; and all those who don’t agree better shut up, resign or retire, and get out of the way. Twenty-year Navy veteran J.E. Dyer explained why this must be so at Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog.

Gays can already serve in the U.S. military; repealing DADT [Don't Ask, Don't Tell] isn’t about allowing them to [serve]. It’s about endorsing their sexual orientation in military operations and culture.

The course of hands-off neutrality is not an option in these realms; their unique character is to require affirmative policy. Civilians should start by understanding this.

The quiescent tolerance they think of in relation to their own lives must translate, in the military, into endorsement and administration of an explicit position.

Philip Klein discounts Dyer’s concerns as far-fetched hyperbole. I wish Philip were right; but alas, he is mistaken.

Straight firefighters in San Diego, for instance, were forced (in 2007) to march in a gay pride parade. The firefighters later sued and won a lawsuit for this infringement of their First Amendment rights; but most military personnel are neither inclined nor able to sue their military supervisors.

Most military personnel, in fact, quietly suffer whatever injustices they are forced to suffer at the hands of their superiors. Indeed, as Dyer observed:

There is no “neutral zone” in the military as there is in civilian life. The military operates on affirmative policy. It will administer open gay service on the basis that homosexuality must be acceptable to everyone in the service.

There is no basis for trusting in any quiescent barriers to the full implications of that, as the current plethora of legal issues arising from gay advocacy lawsuits makes clear.

Why, then, is the military considering a policy that purports to solve a problem which doesn’t exist (because lesbians and homosexuals can and do serve now, albeit discreetly), will infringe upon the First Amendment rights of military members, and likely will drive valuable personnel out of military service altogether?

These are good but politically inconvenient questions, which is why they escape the lips of the Big Media.

John R. Guardiano is an Arlington, Virginia-based writer and analyst. He served as a Marine in Iraq and is still a military reservist. Follow him on Twitter. Mr. Guardiano has also written an ongoing series — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t Even Pretend to Be Fair” – about willful media bias and distortion regarding open homosexuality in the military.

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