The real reason some oppose lifting DADT
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.