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Ever since President-elect Bill Clinton promised to end the military’s ban of admitting gays and lesbians into the armed services the question whether or not it should be banned became a very hot and controversial issue. Despite the conclusion by the Pentagon that homosexuality is incompatible with military service, the famous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was put into action to allow homosexuals to serve if they keep their lifestyles private. Since then, there have been many court cases in which this “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was challenged or opposed. Evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that there are detrimental effects of homosexuals in the armed services that form the basis for the ban.
First, the cohesion within a unit will be weakened. Unity within a unit is one of , if not the most important, quality in the success of the armed forces. Unit cohesion is the social bond that gives rise to that intangible feeling which causes a man to dive on a grenade to save his buddies, or to risk his life simply because his leader tells him to. It requires the soldier to place the needs of the unit ahead of his self-interest and individual identity. He will do this, however, only if he trusts that his comrades and commanders are doing likewise. Cohesion requires a strong degree of mutual affection, while sexual emotions are rooted strongly in self interest. Cohesion exists when a unit thinks together and acts together as one. A supporter for gays and lesbians in the military might say that homosexuals have been in the military for as long as anyone can recall and unity was not a problem then, and that more and more people today are okay with the fact that they are serving along side homosexuals. Statistics show that there has been anti-gay harassment and abuse incidents in the past and more incidents occur each year. The Service Members Legal Defense Network has found that anti-gay harassment this last year has more than doubled from the previous year. The results show that there were 968 documented incidents of anti-gay harassment including a murder, multiple assaults, death threats and verbal gay bashing. From February 15, 1999, to February 15, 2000, this harassment was up 142% from the record 400 violations the proceeding year. Staring at results like these, its hard to see how anyone would speak for everyone and say that people are fine with homosexuality in the military and that there is not much tension towards gays as a whole. As long as fear of homosexuality exist in the heterosexual community, and the fear of the anti-gay harassment in the homosexual community exist, both straight and gay individuals will refer to situations with “us” and “them”. As long as a group of individuals use such terminology, there is no chance for unity or for the desired cohesion it takes to produce a well functioning unit.
Second, the increase of the AIDS virus in the services is feared to escalate into a major problem if we openly admit homosexuals into the military. Homosexuals contract HIV, the human immune deficiency virus, at thousands of times the rate of heterosexuals. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control, two-thirds of AIDS cases in the United States are found among homosexual men and are directly attributable to homosexual conduct. One might argue that testing is too frequent in the services to allow this to be a problem, however, testing is imperfect, and may not reveal the presence of HIV for months after infection. During combat, individuals are exposed routinely to the blood of others and frequently require battlefield transfusions from their fellow soldiers. If the “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise allows off-base, off-duty homosexual sex, will a soldier hesitate to help a wounded homosexual soldier who may have contracted HIV since his last test? Should battlefield medical personnel proceed directly to a heterosexual soldier after treating a homosexuals open wound? Even within everyday training, one is sometimes exposed to others blood. Military men and women willingly accept risks not found anywhere else in society. The question arises; should they be needlessly exposed to a disease that is one hundred percent fatal? The open admission of homosexuals into the military would bring about an increase in the number of AIDS cases and would put additional financial and personnel strains on military medicine, which already must contend with a declining military budget and the challenge of recruiting and retaining sufficient medical personnel.
Finally many aspects of a homosexual relationship threaten the structure of the military atmosphere. Is it reasonable to assume that homosexuals will not engage in homosexual behavior? How might we expect a heterosexual to behave if he/she occupied a small room with an attractive person, of the opposite sex, on a ship deployed at sea for six months? Should we not expect the same from a homosexual? In the compromise policy of Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”, there also includes the specifications, “don’t pursue, don’t harass’. Regardless of this law, each year more incidents are reported that a heterosexual has been asked and pursued by a homosexual. The Service Members Legal Defense Network documented an increase of asking and pursuing of thirty percent. The results show that 665 incidents in which service members were asked and pursued in 1999, up from 511 violations the year before. These violations are infringements on the rights of heterosexuals, as promised to in policy by the United States government. In Stefan v. Cheney, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on December 19, 1991, in favor of the Secretary of Defense. The judge noted that:
In the military establishment…the policy of separating men and women when sleeping, bathing, and ’using the bathroom’ seeks to maintain the privacy of officers and the enlisted while in certain cases of undress. The embarrassment of being naked as between the sexes is prevalent because sometimes the other is considered to be a sexual object. The quite rational assumption in the Navy is that with no one present who has a homosexual orientation, men and women alike can undress, sleep, bathe, and use the bathroom without fear or embarrassment that they are being viewed as sexual objects.
This fear, or embarrassment involving homosexuals reverts back to the idea of unity. If someone fears, or is embarrassed by someone else, how can the government expect a trust to exist. Also, the idea of homosexual relationships within the military undermine the professionalism. Quarrels within a relationship would interfere with duties and tasks. If we permit homosexuals to openly serve within the military these relationships will surely occur more frequently. The presence of homosexuals in the armed services threatens the military’s highly regarded merit-based system. Sexual attraction encourages special relationships without regard to rank and increases the risk of favoritism. Political activism elsewhere in society suggests that weakening the ban would be followed by quotas and lawsuits if homosexuals were not promoted in representative numbers. This would destroy the cohesion of a military unit and erode the military‘s successful merit-based promotion system.
In conclusion, homosexuality is incompatible with military services for many reasons. Restrictions such as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy produce unnecessary harm. Homosexuality in the military should be prohibited outright. Looking the other way when homosexuals seek to join the armed forces sends the message that they are welcome so long as they remain celibate, or do not get caught. Such a policy is disingenuous and unrealistic. If we are to preserve the success of the armed forces which protect our country, we need to ban homosexuals from the military and begin moral progress instead of continuing moral digression.
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