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Position: It Is Time to Allow for the Integration of Open Gays and Lesbians in the United States Military

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April 11, 2010


There are few institutions in the United States that are more visible, more important or more admired than the United States Military. It has roughly 1.4 million uniformed active duty members. There are another1.2 million members of the Reserves and National Guard. There are also over one million civil service employees in the Department of Defense it is one of the largest employers. (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008). With over 24 million veterans it has one of the largest extended networks (Cleland, November 7, 2009). At a time when citizens are losing faith in our institutions, the military is still looked up to. In a recent Gallup poll, the US Military received one of the highest approval ratings, at 82%, in the same survey that less than 20% of the respondents expressed confidence in big business or Congress. Additionally, the military is one of the most sought after sources for highly talented and ethical leaders. (O'Keefe, March 22, 2010).

The military has had a tendency to take on an important role on civil rights issues in the United States. One notable example is the integration of African Americans, beginning in 1948 (Moskos and Butler, 1996). Gender integration also came relatively early to the US Military, with the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, although real integration did not come until the 1970's, when women's roles were also becoming more prevalent in civil society and work (Sandhoff, Segal and Segal, 2010, p124). While the military has not always been the first adopter of equality and integration, it has been an institution that has helped to signal to society at large that these trends are now officially and formally accepted as social norms.

The US Military accounts for the majority of the expenditures of the Federal Government, almost $800 Billion annually. It is currently involved in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars have been deemed critical to our national security. The success of the military today is deemed critical to the success of the nation. We have been in combat for a longer continuous period of time, than any other war in US history. Military service members are being pushed to the limit of endurance and effectiveness, and doing a stellar job fighting these wars. Rarely have organization and policy decisions within the military been more important to morale and effectiveness.

Background, Context and History

For most of its history, the military has officially prevented gays and lesbians from serving on active duty (Frank, 2009). At the same time, homosexuals have served with distinction throughout history. Gay officers served in the military as early as the revolution, being both opposed and supported. While US Army Lieutenant Gotthold Fredrick Enslin was discharged from Valley Forge for homosexual acts in 1778, the founder of the US Military discipline system at the same time, Prussian Captain Friedrich Von Steuben, was gay (Frank, 2009, p1-2). Aside from the experience of the US Military, armies have both opposed and integrated homosexuals into their ranks. An early example of homosexuals serving in the military was the example of the ancient Greek Army's Sacred Band of Thebes, made up of gay soldiers (Crompton, 1994). More recently, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, acknowledged that "I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Everybody in the military has, and we understand that." (Bumiller, February 2, 2010 and Dreazen, February 3, 2010) .

When President William Jefferson Clinton was elected in 1992, he had the intent of allowing homosexuals to serve openly (Frank, 2009). This met a great deal of opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other US Military Leaders (Schmitt, January 23, 1993). The result was a compromise, which ended the official proscription of allowing gays and lesbians to serve, as long as they did not disclose their homosexuality. This compromise, so called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" became Department of Defense Policy in 1993. It was passed into law by Congress on November 30, 1993 as Section 654 of Title 10, United States Code, referred to as "Don't Ask Don't Tell". It officially went into effect on March 1, 1994, and has remained in place since then (Frank, 2009, pp 110-112).

As a Presidential candidate, Barack Obama made a commitment to fully integrate gays into the military. President Obama reinforced his commitment to do so during his State of the Union Address on January 10, 2010. Shortly after that, both Secretary of Defense Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, committed to follow the direction of their Commander in Chief, President and begin the process of reviewing and making a recommendation on changing the law (Palm Center, March 15, 2010). While the majority of both the US public and the US military service members favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, it remains controversial with both senior military leaders and members of congress (Shanker, February 23, 2010 and Frank, Dr. Nathaniel, Dr. Victoria Basham, Geoffrey Bateman, Dr. Aaron Blekin, Dr. Alan Okros, Denise Scott, and Dr. Margot Canaday, 2010.)

As the military spends the coming year reviewing the options for gay and lesbian service members, there are two. The first is to allow gay and lesbian service members to serve openly in the military. The second course of action is to continue the current policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Each of these approaches has their arguments in their favor. Opponents have also highlighted shortcomings or disadvantages that might come from them. Each of these options will be touched on here.


While there are reasonable arguments for and against allowing open gays and lesbians to serve on active duty, a review of the history and the facts makes it difficult to argue that they should not be able to do so. I am strongly in favor of making changes to the current law that would allow them to serve on active duty in an open manner. I will highlight the arguments in favor of those changes.

Pro Position- Arguments in Favor of Allowing Open Homosexuals to Serve in the United States Military

There are a number of reasons to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the United States Military. The most convincing of those arguments is that tens of thousands of them serve honorably



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