Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should not apologize for supporting the law excluding homosexuals from the military. That law, Section 654, Title 10, was passed with veto-proof bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress in 1993. Federal courts have declared it constitutional several times.
Nor should Gen. Pace be intimidated by name-calling gay activists who are berating the general for expressing his personal opinions on immorality. A relentless public relations campaign is promoting their cause and a controversial bill, sponsored by Rep. Marty Meehan (D.-Mass.), which would repeal the 1993 homosexual conduct law.
The statute reflects the views of people who see the issue in moral terms, but it uses secular language emphasizing military discipline. Duly enacted laws, including prohibitions against lying, stealing, and murder, should not be repealed just because they coincide with religious principles and moral codes such as the Ten Commandments.
The personal values of Pace are not unusual, but two contradictions in his March 12 statement deserve a closer look. Pace said that “don’t ask, don’t tell” allows gay individuals to serve, but that frequently stated misinterpretation lacks support in the law that Congress actually approved.
Pace also equated homosexuality with adultery, a moral offense that is prohibited under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Using the general’s comment as a teaching moment, consider what would happen if President Clinton had imposed on the military a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on adultery. Such a policy could condone adulterous relationships in the military, as long as the people involved do not say they are adulterers. That would encourage illicit behavior, in the same way that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, imposed by the Clinton Administration, condones dishonesty about homosexual conduct.
This is why Congress rejected the “don’t ask, don’t tell” concept in 1993. Instead, members decided to codify pre-Clinton Defense Department regulations stating, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”
Three months after signing the law — apparently with fingers crossed behind his back — Bill Clinton undermined the statute by announcing contradictory enforcement regulations — the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” These regulations state that “sexual orientation” (a vague phrase appearing nowhere in the law) is “personal and private” and “not a bar to military service.”
The contradiction between the law and Clinton’s enforcement policy created confusion that continues to this day. In 1996 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations were inconsistent with statutory language stating, “The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.”
Failure to resolve the disparity between policy and law advantages gay activists, because the statute is slandered every time it is mislabeled with the catch phrase “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Chronic confusion helps their high-powered public relations campaign, which frequently cites questionable “studies” and public opinion surveys that are skewed to promote open homosexuality in the military.
In December 2006, for example, Zogby International released a poll that was commissioned by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a gay activist group now called the Michael D. Palm Center. The Zogby news release publicized an innocuous question about respondents’ relative “comfort” with homosexuals, but omitted mention of the key question displayed on the pollster’s website: “Do you agree or disagree with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?”
On that question, 26% of respondents agreed, but 37% disagreed. The poll also found that 32% of respondents were “Neutral,” and 5% were “Not sure.” The combined 69% who were opposed or neutral outnumbered the 26% who wanted the law repealed. This was hardly a mandate for radical change. (See related article here.)
Another PR strategy, shedding crocodile tears about national security, blames the homosexual exclusion law for military personnel shortages. But the often-cited 2005 General Accountability Office report, which provided statistical data on the number of “unprogrammed separations” between 1994 and 2003, did not support that claim.
The Pentagon’s Office of Personnel and Readiness responded to the GAO report by putting discharge numbers into perspective. During the nine years in question, there were 26,446 discharges for pregnancy, 36,513 for violations of weight standards, 38,178 for “serious offenses,” 20,527 for parenthood and 59,098 for “drug offenses/use.”
In contrast, 9,501 persons were discharged when they acknowledged homosexual conduct — only 0.37 of the members discharged. That number could be reduced to near zero if potential recruits were accurately informed that gay men and women are not eligible to serve in the military.
Secretary of Defense William Gates should exercise his legally authorized option to reinstate “the question” about homosexuality that used to appear on induction forms. At the very least, President Bush should drop Clinton’s expendable “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations, and provide accurate information about the meaning and purpose of the law.
The statute recognizes differences between military and civilian life, and notes that in combat, bonds of personal trust and unit cohesion are essential for mission accomplishment. Such realities justify numerous restrictions on personal behavior that would not be acceptable in civilian life.
Simply stated in gender-neutral terms, the law says that in conditions “characterized by forced intimacy, with little or no privacy,” persons should not have to expose themselves to persons who might be sexually attracted to them. The same principle protects privacy between military men and women, to the greatest extent possible. It encourages good order and discipline by respecting the normal human desire for modesty in sexual matters.
Gay activists will not stop pushing their agenda, but the law deserves continued support.