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The real reason some oppose lifting DADT

Timothy Kincaid

November 19th, 2010

Those who oppose the repeal of the Military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy often couch their objections to open service in terms of ‘what is best for the Military.’ And, to be fair, that may be a primary concern of our Curmudgeon in Chief or other legislators who just can’t fathom that young soldiers are just not as scared of Homosexuals!! in the Showers!! as they are.

But achieving the best Military is of no consequence to those who are leading the public opposition to open service. If irrefutable proof were offered that open service by gay personnel would increase unit cohesion and military effectiveness by 25%, they would still be opposed. Because their chief objection has nothing to do with the military, the fears of other soldiers, or even sensitivity to the religious teachings of chaplains.

No. Their objection is based on the fear that open service would remove the stigma and hostility that is institutionalized by the DADT policy. They don’t care about military policy nearly as much as they do about condemning homosexuality and gay people.

Take, for example, the objections made by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) when asked what his response would be if the military survey showed that soldiers do not have a problem with open service:

I would still have a problem with it because there’s no question to mainstream homosexuality within active duty military would have an impact on unit cohesion would have an impact on recruitment, an impact on readiness, that’s been established and written about and chronicled for many many years and I believe we need to continue to keep the focus of our military on the mission of the military. Don’t ask don’t tell was a compromise back in the early 90s, it’s been a successful compromise we ought to leave it like it is and and not run the risk of impacting the readiness of our military or recruitment for our military because of an effort to advance some liberal domestic social agenda.

Lots of talk about unit cohesion, recruitment, readiness, etc., but that is just cover.

As Pence indicates, he doesn’t care what the report says. He doesn’t care what soldiers think, or whether open service would improve unit cohesion, recruitment, and readiness. All of that is irrelevant to Pence’s position.

Pence’s real opposition is “to mainstream homosexuality.” The rest is mere justifications offered to bolster his real objection, “mainstreaming” homosexuality.

This fear of “mainstreaming” raises its head in the objections that Focus on the Family makes to anti-bullying campaigns. It’s present in debates over insurance for city employees. It shows up when a theme park has a gay day or when a television show creates a lesbian character or when a library includes a book with a plotline that speaks to the life of a gay youth.

Really, Mike Pence isn’t that worried that the military will not be ready for combat if gay people serve. The military isn’t his concern or why he ran for Congress. In fact, this isn’t even because Pence “hates gays” or opposes “the liberal social agenda”, per se.

Rather, Pence is afraid that Americans are rejecting his religion’s views including those about homosexuality and that it is – or soon will be – no longer mainstream thinking to engage in blanket condemnation of others based on their sexual orientation. He is afraid that his religion will further slip in its “moral authority” to declare what is acceptable social conduct and he is seeking to use his power as an elected official to give governmental sanction to his church’s beliefs.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan added this additional thought:

I think many under-estimate the symbolic importance of this to those who believe homosexuality is a sickness or a sin. What we are asking of them is not simply to tolerate reluctantly the fact that some gay people refuse to be ashamed or closeted, but to conflate the symbol of the American soldier with a homosexual. There are very few emblems in American life that carry the weight, power and symbolism of the American soldier, the veteran, the men and women in uniform.

To say that open gay men and women are serving their country in uniform is to say that they are fully citizens. It is this equal citizenship that simply cannot compute with the idea of homosexuality in the minds of a minority of the older generation.

Comments

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Priya Lynn
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

I agree completely. If the military repeals DADT it sends the message that gays should be allowed to serve because there is nothing wrong with being gay. To the anti-gays that’s the beginning of the end of their “It’s immoral to be gay” schtick.

Ben in Oakland
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

“that’s been established and written about and chronicled for many many years and I believe we need to continue to keep the focus of our military on the mission of the military. ”

Hereis indeed the clue to Pence’s “thinking”.

It has certainly been written about. but chroncled and established has not happened yet. In fact, based upon our allies’ experience and the trial of maj. witt, it won’t.

Amicus
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

there’s no question to mainstream homosexuality within active duty military would have an impact on unit cohesion … that’s been established and written about and chronicled for many many years

You lie!

The 1993 RAND study, not even the current one, from page 28 (link):

“Unfortunately, opinion on this issue is intuitive or based on anecdote. There is no systematic study of the subject, and no controlled experiments or other research bear directly on this issue.

There is a large body of potentially related empirical research … a significant amount of which was sponsored by the military. … The principal conclusion from an extensive review of this literature is the commonsense observation that it is not necessary to like someone, to work with him or her, so long as members share a commitment to the group’s objectives.”

I suspect that the upcoming report will be even more dismissive.

Indeed, we have had two court decisions, look at all the facts in a highly adversarial format, which concluded that it was the discharge that was disruptive to the unit, not retention of an openly gay servicemember.

Amicus
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

sorry for extra comma and a “which” that should be a “that” (no preview or edit features plus a lazy typist at work, I’m afraid).

Mike
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

Maybe I’m more cynical when it comes to politics but I think the real reason is that for both sides it’s a terrific issue to run on, make public statements on, and raise campaign cash on (Is your 4 character PIN at the GayTM DADT or ENDA?)

Rob San Diego
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

As a major Tea-Bagger, shouldn’t Mike Pence be against the big bad government saying who can and who can’t serve their own country with honor?

Now I thought that the Tea-bag movement was about getting the government out of out lives?

Oh wait, I forgot, if your gay, they think the government has the right to tell us who we can love, who we can be with, and what we can do in the privacy of our own homes.

David C.
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

Repeal of DADT is indeed a major step in the process of normalizing homosexuality.

Normalization is, irrespective of their publicly stated immediate cause, the fundamental structuring paradigm of the LGBT* civil rights struggle religion beholden political leaders have always attempted to counter by their support of legislation curtailing LGBT* civil rights. It is the reason why so-called “family values” organizations have fought against any legislation that explicitly acknowledges the legitimacy of LGBT* rights—even the right to exist at all.

The entire anti-gay industry lives or dies on whether LGBT* citizens have a right to the same freedoms enjoyed by everyone else. As each of those freedoms are acknowledged and granted, the legitimacy of all arguments against restrictions on LGBT* people increases exponentially and accelerates our acceptance as first class citizens. That day cannot come too soon.

cd
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

The military somehow survived racial integration in the 1940s. It survived women serving. It seems to have survived a few liberal agendas rather well.

People like Pence have to made to talk on the record about how mainstreaming is their real problem and defending their stance when no particular argument against mainstreaming seems to hold up.

If their reasons for opposition are religious, that might lead to better arguments. But I’m pretty sure that religion is also practically always a cover. In the end they can’t explain themselves even to themselves.

rk
November 19th, 2010 | LINK

….and yet America voted these haters into office and they soon will begin stripping Gay Americans of all dignity that is left. Let’s be honest here, these types only want to eliminate gay people period based on false religious doctrine. Hate is hate and it is time to take them out.

Matt
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Replace Pence’s name with John McCain and the article rings just as true.

Paul J. Stein
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

I am ready to start packing a weapon again. If the current political, legal atmosphere gets any more anti-gay. I have the lives of my family, partner,2 daughters to think about. Police are lax to even investigate anything other than DRUG crime in our area {better federal money available} so you have to sue the local police in civil court to get anywhere. I would have NO PROBLEM taking out ANYONE who thought I would not respond to a “GAY BASHING” Full round of ammo clips for all my friends! WTF did we FORGET about STONEWALL and get lazy!

MJC
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Tim,

This is a beautifully written post.

Professor Nathaniel Frank’s _Unfriendly Fire_ (which I assume many BTB readers have read) carefully dissects the canard about “unit cohesion”.

It is no small irony that the main studies on this topic were done on units of Waffen-SS in WW II…and if I remember correctly, those studies concluded that there was possibly a gay tinge to the bonding those soldiers felt. By that logic, open service would ENHANCE unit cohesion.

But as we have seen, facts don’t matter. I congratulate Tim for this deeply insightful post. Pence is glib and some Republicans probably think he is attractive in some way. I am tired of his empty rhetoric, smug manner, and obvious attempt to mimic Ronald Reagan’s mannerisms.

He is the ‘ringing gong’ St. Paul wrote about.

Tony P
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Note they always talk about the impact or consequence but they can never really elaborate on what they’ll be. It’s because they really don’t know.

This is also used by NOM when they trot out their protection of children meme and say there will be consequences, like little Johnny in second grade reading the book Prince and Prince. Or finding out that gay people exist and are pretty much everywhere.

We are held out as bogeymen but we all remember that the bogeymen of our youth were all just figments of our imagination and had no basis in reality whatsoever.

customartist
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Act Now! Send 3 emails:

Email The Whitehouse
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

Email Congress:
https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Email Senate:
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

*IMPORTANT* Be polite and to the point.

John
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

DADT was not a compromise. Clinton caved in to the military. As for recruitment being affected. So what? We need more recruits who, when they get out, take their military training to far right hate groups? The recruits Pence wants are at the low end and not the higher end.

Timothy Kincaid
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Paul Stein,

We do not advocate violence at this site.

Paul J. Stein
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Grow a pair!

Paul J. Stein
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

Self defense is a basic human right, wake up sister!

Paul J. Stein
November 20th, 2010 | LINK

I guess this a real EGO TRIP for you Tim , HUH…edit away and skew the results of the views of the followers of this site.

Brian
November 21st, 2010 | LINK

Pence is a dinosaur and his ilk are headed for extinction, they will be gone soon, even in the present bubble of systemic closure. But Timothy please, please, learn how to use an apostrophe? It helps your cause if you write properly.

Timothy Kincaid
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

Brian,

Was your concern with the “it’s” which should only be used as “it is” and never as “belonging to it”?

Yeah, that one slipped by me. It’s now corrected.

Or was there another error?

John B F
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

You are so right. What’s awful is that no matter how we respond and prove the obvious truth- the opponents will resort to fantasy, lies and irrational fear to argue they are still right. It’s been going on for so long, and they are getting away with it. Look at NOM- they have NO ( I mean NONE!) valid argument against marriage for all yet they are still here tolerated as a valid ‘voice’ on the issue, a force to be reckoned with, why is this?
PS- I love Bishop Spong’s Manifesto.

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