Military debate lacks diversity of opinion

BY VONN CHRISTENSON

DUE TO THE RECENT deluge of articles, petitions and conferences on the issue of homosexuals in the military, I feel compelled to throw my voice into the fray. First of all, let me say that I am disappointed at how one-sided the discussion has been thus far, and I am disturbed at how sensational Lambda’s tactics have been in addressing its concerns. As much as I would prefer to have avoided the issue, it was impossible to do so when every seat for one class was greeted by a pink GI Joe with an accompanying letter; as interesting as a discussion on the topic would be, most conferences have been little more than an advocacy panel against the military; and what other reason exists for dressing up President Bush in a queer t-shirt than to elicit reaction and evoke emotion?

Nevertheless, having opened the issue of discrimination in the military, let’s talk about discrimination. For starters: what do you mean by discrimination? The “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy does not preclude gays from serving in the military. Indeed, mere suggestion – or even evidence improperly obtained – is insufficient to remove a homosexual from the military. They must be openly gay for dismissal to occur. And certainly no one would advocate that the military have no discretion for any type of discrimination, since otherwise anyone could do anything whenever and wherever they like (few people would suggest, for instance, that the military shouldn’t discriminate against heterosexual people having sex in the open). Thus, this isn’t an issue about “gay discrimination,” but discrimination against open homosexuality and whether that discrimination is appropriate.

So, regarding the issue of openness … just how open do you want gays to be? Do you want to permit cross-dressing? identification? flirtation? open affection? public meetings? recruiting opportunities? At what point does such openness become inappropriate? (Again consider the “sex in the open” scenario). Keep in mind that the military is much more regimented than regular society, and even heterosexual relationships are limited in how they may be pursued or expressed.

Consider an individual in the military who likes to film pornography. This is not illegal and is something the person is privileged to do. However, should such an individual be permitted to publicize his preferences to fellow service-men and -women, to advertise his meetings and publicly invite others to join him? Arguments against such actions would include it being a distraction to other soldiers, violating a sense of decency, or even offending a notion of what is acceptable. Similar arguments exist against open homosexuality.

Further, much research points to the public interest that the military could have for discouraging homosexual activities, such as health concerns, increased sexual promiscuity, decreased stability of relationships, etc. I will be the first to admit that you can get data to say just about anything you want – but this evidence cannot simply be dismissed, no more than evidence in favor of homosexuality, without due consideration.

Finally, at the heart of the homosexual movement is a clash with what many hold to be a core value in their life: that the traditional family comprised of husband and wife – male and female – is the fundamental unit of society, and that sexual intimacy should not be divorced from procreation. To the extent that homosexual relations are accepted, or even embraced, the centrality of the family is diminished. As soon as homosexuality is viewed as a healthy and equal alternative to a traditional family unit, then the family is displaced from the ideal, affecting public policy, ideologies and a host of other related issues. Such an impact on the family, and on society as a whole, runs contrary to a core value that many are willing to defend.

But I digress… the real issue at hand is how the law school should respond to the military and its policies; and as the recent vote by the Law School Council against joining FAIR is indicative, many at this Law School are opposed to pursuing legal recourse. The Law School represents all of our voices, and should act publicly only where an overwhelming majority supports the cause.

I admit that there is more discussion to be had on this issue – I have intentionally not discussed much of morality and military morale – and I strongly encourage people to share their thoughts and opinions. To be honest, I would prefer that a discussion of homosexuality not occur at all, but if you insist on debate, please allow both sides to be heard. Let’s get beyond mere partisanship and seek a truly fair and balanced consideration of the issues at hand.

Vonn R. Christenson is a 1L.

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