The order from the Commander in Chief to the nation’s military last month in his first State of the Union Address was clear — embrace the gay agenda. This command from on high is troubling to me, not just in my capacity as the head of a national organization working to preserve and promote family values, but as a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
There’s no question that allowing active, self-professed homosexuals to serve openly in the military would advance the political and social agenda not only in the military but in public, including gay marriage.
However, our armed forces do not exist to advance a narrow political, social, or cultural agenda. They exist to keep our country safe by being prepared to fight and win wars. What has changed since this compromise policy was adopted 16 years ago? Maybe the fact that we are now involved in two wars and face the constant threat of terrorist attacks?
In light of these changes the question that I urge Congress to ask, and those pushing this change to answer is what how will recruiting of homosexuals serve the needs of the military, helping them better accomplishing their mission of keeping America safe.
The military’s longstanding prohibition on homosexual conduct dates all the way back to George Washington’s Continental Army, not just to the current law passed in 1993. There is no reason to believe repealing that law would increase the military’s effectiveness, and there are several ways it could reduce it. Like a grade school lesson, we can summarize these issues in terms of “the three R’s” for the military — recruiting, readiness, and retention.
Let’s look at these in reverse order, beginning with retention. Advocates for allowing homosexuality in the military argue that the military could not afford to lose the talents of the estimated 13,000 individuals who have been separated from the service in accordance with the terms of the 1993 law. However, those discharges represent only a tiny percentage of all those discharged from active duty during the same period.
During the most recent ten years, the 8,336 people discharged for homosexuality represented less than one half of one percent of the 1.9 million separated from active duty during that period — despite the fact that our nation was fighting two wars for much of that time. And many of those people were discharged for reasons that would not be accepted as valid for most civilian employers, such as obesity or pregnancy.
On the other hand, we must consider the likelihood that many current service members would be reluctant to serve with open homosexuals, and choose to leave voluntarily. A survey in the Military Times showed that ten percent of currently serving personnel would leave if the military were opened to homosexuals, and another fourteen percent would consider leaving. These figures dwarf the tiny number of homosexuals who have been discharged in recent years.
Furthermore, the concerns of our soldiers about a gay military are not based on irrational prejudice, but on legitimate worries about the consequences of increased sexual tension, sexual harassment, and even sexual assault on morale and unit cohesion. Such problems in turn would threaten the readiness of the force. Can we really casually dismiss the reluctance of soldiers to endure forced cohabitation with those who may view them as a sexual object? If so, would we be prepared to force the same upon our female soldiers?
There would also be more specific threats to readiness. People who are HIV-positive are not permitted to enlist in the military. But if someone on active duty becomes infected, they cannot be deployed in combat — yet current policy also forbids them from being discharged. Since scientists have said that homosexuals and bisexuals are fifty times more likely to contract HIV, it is inevitable that welcoming them into the military will increase both medical costs and the number of personnel who are essentially dead weight within the force.
Finally, what would be the impact on recruiting? The idea that the military simply cannot get by without recruiting among the tiny fraction (about two percent) of the population who are homosexual is simply a myth. In recent years, the armed services have been meeting or exceeding their recruiting goals.
While no segment of American society has a monopoly on courage or patriotism, it would be naïve to ignore the fact that more conservative families are disproportionately likely to send their sons and daughters into military service. But they are the most likely to be discouraged from doing so if an agenda of political correctness and sexual freedom comes to trump the warrior culture of discipline and honor. Indeed, such a change could break the back of the all-volunteer force — leaving no choice but a return to the draft in order to meet military manpower needs.
Some people argue that the law should change because society has changed. But the unique mission, needs, and culture of the military have not. Studying the “three R’s” of the military leads to one conclusion — homosexuality is incompatible with military service. Our armed forces do not exist to serve the needs of a single interest group, but to protect and defend this nation and all our people. That’s a bottom line too important to ignore.