As if it weren't enough that the military's top general called homosexuality
"immoral" and had to express "regret"
the next day, researchers at the Palm Center
(where I work) have just obtained a letter
from the Under Secretary of Defense, David Chu, denying that there is a gay
ban at all. "Respectfully, I must clarify a key point," says the letter to
Sen. Ron Wyden, which was first reported yesterday on Slate.com.
"There is no military ban on gay and lesbian service members." Chu
explained that the policy in question is merely a federal statute that the
Pentagon is obligated to enforce. The statute, he wrote, regulates
"conduct, not orientation."
The law does no such
thing. By defining conduct to include making a statement of identity, and
defining a "statement" of identity to include any indication that one may
have a "propensity" to engage in homosexual conduct, the military got around
the legal objection that they were targeting people for who they were
instead of how they behaved.
In reality, the gay person who has never engaged in what the military
defines as "homosexual conduct" is a rare bird indeed. Not only must you be
a virgin, but you must never have uttered a single sentiment revealing an
attraction to the same sex, even to your brother. This could technically
disqualify my three-year-old niece for saying she wants to marry her mother.
Chu's letter makes another startling claim that essentially extends the gag
rule of "don't ask, don't tell" from the military to society at-large: a
"national debate" on lifting the gay ban, writes Chu, "with the accompanying
divisiveness and turbulence across our country, will compound the burden of
Chu is apparently unconcerned about the loss of 11,000 capable service
members under the policy, including over 300 linguists, 49 nuclear,
biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52
missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other
artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen. So unconcerned, that is, that
he recently told Rep. Marty Meehan that he did not believe that firing all
65,000 gays currently estimated to be serving would affect our national
Reforming the policy on homosexuality is not the highest priority in the war
on terrorism. But a military leadership whose reputation has been badly
battered by its stewardship of the current war effort does not do itself -- or
our nation -- any favors by adding to "don't ask, don't tell" a policy of
"don't look, don't see."