Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Gets An Earful

A number of Republicans, including John McCain, said that they would defer to the military brass when it came to repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. They probably said that smug in the belief that the generals and the admirals would certainly never go for it. Well, yesterday they got a bit of a shock.

The nation’s top military officer told Congress Tuesday that gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, the strongest endorsement ever by the nation’s military leadership for overturning the law that excludes them from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

And the defense secretary said he is ordering a review of the law and appointing a committee to study steps to lift the ban.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen called repeal of the ban ”the right thing to do.”

”No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mullen’s testimony drew angry responses from most of the committee’s Republicans, in contrast to the deference they had shown Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a morning session on the Pentagon’s budget, where the Republicans declared the men two of the nation’s finest public servants.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona spelled out his objections to repealing the law, calling the current policy imperfect but effective, despite having said four years ago that he would defer to the wishes of military leaders on the matter.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama pointedly reminded Mullen that Congress, not the chairman, will decide if the law should be changed.

In other words, “We had no idea you would actually end up being in favor of repealing the law! We thought you were one of us!” It wasn’t a surprise, either, that John McCain flipped sides on the DADT issue, either. His basic mantra has been that no matter what the issue is or where he’s been on it before, if President Obama is for it, he’s against it. After all, this is the man who gave the world Sarah Palin, so his judgment has been suspect for a while now. At least with DADT, he’s got no qualms about displaying his utter shamelessness.

But the prize for both shock and awe goes to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) of California who was interviewed on NPR yesterday. He not only is opposed to repealing the law, he’s worried about letting “transgenders and hermaphrodites” into the service. (Audio here.)

I think the military is not civilian life. I think the folks who have been in the military, that have been in those very close situations with each other — there has to be a special bond there. I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians.

Interviewer: Transgenders and hermaphrodites.

Rep. Duncan Hunter: That’s going to be part of this whole thing. It’s not just gays and lesbians, it’s the whole gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual community. If you’re going to let anybody in, no matter what preference — what sexual preference — they have, that means the military is going to probably let everybody in. It’s going to be like civilian life. And, I think that would be detrimental for the military.

He makes it sound like boot camp will turn into Fantasy Fest, and there isn’t a cultural stereotype about gays and lesbians that he doesn’t throw into the mix, including the ever-popular worry about what might happen in the showers. Perhaps Mr. Hunter has been sneaking a peek at some websites that require the use of a credit card and a promise that he’s over 18, but what always makes me laugh is that he worries that the gay soldiers just won’t be able to restrain themselves. It makes you wonder who’s the one with the unhealthy obsession with gay sex, not to mention the fact that it’s always the guys who would never stand a chance of getting hit on by any self-respecting gay man that worry the most about it. Don’t flatter yourself, fella; you’re no hottie.

I’m not at all surprised that a troglodyte like Mr. Hunter would be against repealing the ban; that’s to be expected, and hearing him spout the same tired old dehumanizing stereotypes about the LGBT community isn’t news. Neither was the response from Peter Sprigg, a spokesman for the Family Research Council, on Hardball with Chris Matthews who basically called for outlawing gays altogether.

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Matthews: Do you think we should outlaw gay behavior?

Sprigg: Well, I think certainly..

Matthews: I’m just asking, should we outlaw gay behavior?

Sprigg: I think the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas which overturned the sodomy laws in this country was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place in this country for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.

Matthews: So we should outlaw gay behavior?

Sprigg: YES!

Don’t mince words, sir; what do you really think?

Mr. Sprigg’s intolerant outburst raises the question as to what exactly is the definition of “gay behavior.” If he’s talking about sexual activity, I’m pretty sure that sodomy isn’t limited to gay people, nor — without going into details — is it practiced by every gay person. Since I’m gay, is everything I do — go to work, participate in social activities such as my car club events, have dinner with friends, watch TV, write — “gay behavior”? (I know what Mr. Sprigg means. I also know that he’s got a rather unhealthy obsession with other peoples’ private lives, and he thinks more about gay sex than most gay people I know.) Is a soldier who is performing his or her assigned duties behaving “gay” because he or she happens to be gay or lesbian? The truth is that very few people who are secure in themselves — that is, grown up — make their sexual orientation the primary focus of their lives. It’s only when they are reminded by people like Mr. Sprigg that they are somehow different and therefore unworthy of the basic rights and responsibilities of life as a citizen and person that it becomes something to be painfully aware of.

HT to Pam.