November 29th, 2007
In last night’s Republican CNN/YouTube debate, there were two questions about gay issues.
The first question came from Brigadier Gen. Keith Kerr (Ret.), who has been openly gay since his retirement. He asked about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The second question was about whether the candidates would accept support from the Log Cabin Republicans.
Here is the transcript from that debate:
Anderson Cooper: All right, let’s get back to the debate. Another question from a YouTube viewer. Let’s watch.
Brigadier Gen. Keith Kerr (Ret.): My name’s Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I’m a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. And I’m a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I’m an openly gay man.
I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.
Cooper: I want to point out that Brigadier General Keith Kerr is here with us tonight. I’m glad you’re here.
Again, the question to Congressman Hunter.
Hunter: General, thanks for your service, but I believe in what Colin Powell said when he said that having openly homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion.
The reason for that, even though people point to the Israelis and point to the Brits and point to other people as having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military and make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives.
They have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. To force those people to work in a small tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual goes against what they believe to be their principles, and it is their principles, is I think a disservice to them. I agree with Colin Powell that it would be bad for unit cohesion.
Cooper: I want to direct this to Governor Huckabee.
Huckabee: The Uniform Code of Military Justice is probably the best rule, and it has to do with conduct. People have a right to have whatever feelings, whatever attitudes they wish, but when their conduct could put at risk the morale, or put at risk even the cohesion that Duncan Hunter spoke of, I think that’s what is at issue. And that’s why our policy is what it is.
Cooper: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, “openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” Do you stand by that?
Romney: This isn’t that time. This is not that time. We’re in the middle of a war. The people who have…
Cooper: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?
Romney: I’m going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of…
Cooper: Is that a change in your position…
Romney: Yes, I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t think “don’t ask/don’t tell” would work. That was my — I didn’t think that would work. I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn’t make any sense to me.
And you know what? It’s been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.
Cooper: So, just so I’m clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?
Romney: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I listen to what they have to say.
Cooper: All right. General Kerr is — as I said — is here.
Please stand up, General. Thank you very much for being with us.
Did you feel you got an answer to your question?
Kerr: With all due respect, I did not get an answer from the candidates.
Cooper: What do you feel you did not…
Kerr: American men and women in the military are professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.
For 42 years, I wore the army uniform on active duty, in the Reserve, and also for the state of California. I revealed I was a gay man after I retired.
Today, “don’t ask/don’t tell” is destructive to our military policy.
Every day, the Department of Defense discharges two people, not for misconduct, not for the unit cohesion…
Cooper: Wait, the mike is — you’ve lost me. Is the microphone not working? Please, just finish your — what is your question?
Kerr: Not for the unit cohesion that Congressman Hunter is talking about, but simply because they happen to be gay.
Cooper: OK. Senator McCain …
Kerr: And we’re talking about doctors, nurses, pilots, and the surgeon who sews somebody up when they’re taken from the battlefield.
Cooper: I appreciate your comments.
Senator McCain, I want to give you 30 seconds. You served in the military.
McCain: General, I thank you for your service to our nation. I respect it. All the time, I talk to our military leaders, beginning with our joint chiefs of staff and the leaders in the field, such as General Petraeus and General Odierno and others who are designated leaders with the responsibility of the safety of the men and women under their command and their security and protect them as best they can.
Almost unanimously, they tell me that this present policy is working, that we have the best military in history, that we have the bravest, most professional, best prepared, and that this policy ought to be continued because it’s working.
Cooper: All right. We’ve got another question. Let’s listen.
David Cercone: Hi, my name is David Cercone. I’d like to ask all the candidates if they accept the support of the Log Cabin Republicans, and why should the Log Cabin Republicans support their candidacy?
Cooper: Governor Huckabee, would you support — would you allow support from the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans?
Huckabee: You know, in my position in this entire election, I need the support of anybody and everybody I can get.
Huckabee: Sure, they should. I disagree with them, strongly disagree with them on the idea of same-sex marriage, but in a democracy we can have disagreements over some policies and still agree on the greater things that make us Republicans.
So would I accept their support? Of course. Would I change my position on same-sex marriage? No, I wouldn’t. But if they’re willing to support me, I’ll be their president. I’ll be anybody’s president, but I’ll be true to my convictions, and I think that’s what Americans look for — not someone they’re going to agree with on everything, but somebody who at least has some convictions, sticks with them, can explain them, and can at least have respect for people who have different ones.
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