Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Get Over It

Since the Supreme Court has ruled that colleges can’t bar military recruiters from campuses because of their anti-gay stand, the correct step would be for the military to end the ban on gay soldiers. That’s the gist of this editorial in the Washington Post.

Universities are not the primary victim here. The real problem, which this litigation has tended to obscure, is that the military, even while fighting two wars, continues to root out Americans who wish to help by maintaining a policy that bars anyone who is openly gay. It robs itself of much-needed talent by way of their humiliation and exposure while forcing those in uniform to hide who they are.

This would be distasteful even if their presence in the military posed some real problem. But there’s no evidence of that. A combination of bigotry and inertia keeps the gay ban in place. Now that the military has proved it can constitutionally exempt itself from university nondiscrimination rules, Congress should decide whether it really wants a military that requires such an exemption.

That reminds me of one of my favorite bits of dialgoue from The West Wing; an exchange between Admiral Fitzwallace, who is black, and another officer.

Major Tate: Sir, we’re not prejudiced toward homosexuals.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don’t want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?

Major Tate: No sir, I don’t.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: ‘Cause they impose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That’s what I think, too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff… Beat that with a stick.

What’s even stupider than this bigotted policy is that since the beginning of the current military activity, thousands of soldiers who have voluntarily chosen to serve their country have been discharged from their chosen profession because they are gay. Aside from the shameful nature of this policy on its face, it has also hampered our actual war efforts. It makes you wonder what’s more important to the Department of Defense: defending our nation or making a bunch of right-wing homophobes happy.