Essay, Research Paper: Homosexuals In Military


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Homosexuals have been excluded from our society since our country's beginning,
giving them no equal protection underneath the large branch of the law. The
Emancipation Proclamation gave freedom to blacks from slavery in the 1800's and
women were given the freedoms reserved for males in the early 1900's with the
women's suffrage movement. But everyone still knows the underlying feeling of
nation in dealing with minorities and women, one of contempt and disgust. Hate
crimes are still perpetrated to this day in this country, and most are
unpublicized and "swept underneath the rug." The general public is
just now dealing with the struggle of Homosexuals to gain rights in America,
although this persecution is subtle, quiet and rarely ever seen to the naked eye
or the general public. The big question today in Homosexuals rights struggles
are dealing with the right to be a part of our country's Military Forces. At the
forefront of the struggle to gain access to the military has been Female's who
have tried to gain access to "All Men" facilities and have been
pressured out by other cadets. This small group of women have fought hard, and
pressured the Government to change regulations dealing with the inclusion of all
people, whether female or male, and giving them all the same opportunities they
deserve. The Homosexual struggle with our Nation's Armed Forces has been
acquiring damage and swift blows for over 60 years now, and now they too are
beginning to fight back. With the public knowledge of "initiation
rights" into many elite groups of the military, the general public is
beginning to realize how exclusive the military can be. One cadet said after
"hell week" in the Marines, "It was almost like joining a
fraternity, but the punishments were 1000 times worse than ever imagined, and
the Administration did not pretend to turn there back, they were instrumental in
the brutality." The intense pressure of "hell week" in the
Marines drove a few to wounding themselves, go AWOL, and a few even took there
own life. People who are not "meant to be" in the Military are usually
weeded out during these "initiations" and forced either to persevere
or be discharged dishonorably. The military in the United States has become an
elite society, a society where only few survive. In a survey taken in 1990, the
United States population on a whole is believed to consist of 13-15%
Homosexuals. This figure is believed to have a margin of error on the upward
swing due to the fact that most homosexuals are still "afraid" of
their sexuality and the social taboos it carries along with it. With so many
Homosexuals in the United States, how can the military prove its exclusion
policy against Homosexuals correct and moral? Through the "long standing
tradition and policy," says one Admiral of the U.S. Navy. But is it fair or
correct? That is the question posed on Capitol Hill even today, as politicians
battle through a virtual minefield of tradition and equal rights. Historically,
support for one's military was a way to show one's patriotism, if not a
pre-requisite for being patriotic at all. Society has given the military a great
deal of latitude in running its own affairs, principally due to society's
acknowledgment that the military needs such space in order to run effectively.
The military, in turn, has adopted policies which, for the most part, have lead
to very successful military ventures, which served to continually renew
society's faith in the military. Recently, however, that support has been
fading. The Vietnam War represented both a cause of diminishing support for the
military by society as well a problem. The Vietnam War occurred during a period
of large-scale civil disobedience, as well as a time where peace was more
popular than war. Since the effectiveness of the military depends a great deal
upon society's support, when society's support dropped out of the war effort,
the war effort in turn suffered. The ultimate defeat of the United States in the
Vietnam War effort only lead to less faith in the military's ability. This set
the stage for society becoming more involved in how the military was run. The
ban on homosexuals serving in the military, was originally instituted in 1942.
Though some of the reasons that were used to justify it at the time have been
debunked since-that homosexual service members in sensitive positions could be
blackmailed, for instance ("Gays and the Military" 54)-the policy was
largely an extension of the military's long-standing policy against homosexual
acts. At the time, the prevailing attitude was that homosexuality was a
medical/psychiatric condition, and thus the military sought to align itself with
this school of thought. Rather than just continuing to punish service members
for individual acts of sodomy, the military took what was thought to be a kinder
position-excluding those people who were inclined to commit such acts in the
first place, thus avoiding stiffer penalties (including prison sentences) for
actually committing them. As society and the military came to be more
enlightened about the nature of homosexuality, a redefinition of the policy
became necessary. In 1982, the policy was redefined to state that "a
homosexual (or a lesbian) in the armed forces seriously impairs the ability of
the military services to maintain discipline, good order and morale.'"
Essentially, it was reasoned that homosexuality and military service were
incompatible, and thus homosexuals should be excluded from the military. Only in
1994 was this policy changed, and then only the exclusion of homosexuals-acts of
homosexuality or overt acknowledgment of one's homosexuality are still forbidden
in the military. But we must ask ourselves, why was this ban upheld for so long?
The primary reason that the military upheld its ban against gay service members
was that it was necessary for the military to provide "cohesiveness."
Society bent to accommodate homosexuality. The military, however, cannot bend if
it is to effectively carry out its duties. The realities of military life
include working closely while on duty, but the true intimacies "are to be
traced to less bellicose surroundings-to the barracks, the orderly room, the
mess hall. If indeed the military can lay claim to any sense of `organic unity,'
it will be found in the intimacy of platoon and company life." The military
demands an extreme amount of cohesiveness, and this is very much reinforced in
barracks life. You must sleep with, eat with, and share facilities with your
fellow platoon members. Life in the barracks is extremely intimate. Men must
share rooms together, and showers are public also. Having homosexuals be part of
this structure violates this cohesiveness. Men and women are kept in separate
barracks much for the same reasons. However, the true purpose behind barring gay
service members is how the individuals who are part of the military feel about
them. Members of the military are more conservatively minded people, but,
moreover, they are overwhelmingly opposed to having homosexuals among their
ranks. To then force these individuals to serve with gays only undermines the
morale of the military. And when morale is undermined, the effectiveness of the
military drops as well. The leadership of the military has always been
persistent in its position-"Up and down the chain of command, you'll find
the military leadership favors the ban.". And, as one navy lieutenant put
it: "The military is a life-and-death business, not an equal opportunity
employer." No one is doubting that gays have served in the military. Ever
since Baron Frederich von Steuben (a renowned Prussian military-mind and known
homosexual) served as a Major General in the Continental Army, there have been
homosexuals serving in the military. Even today there exists a Gay American
Legion post in San Francisco. However, the general consensus is that allowing
them in the service represents a rubber-stamping of their existence rather than
a concerted effort to discourage it. Though the homosexual lobby often cites the
fact that gays have always served in the military as a justification for lifting
the ban, this sort of reasoning is wrong. There are many other types of behavior
that the military has been unable to completely eradicate, such as discharge and
use of illegal substances. No one would ever deny that these things happen in
the military. But the point is that if they were made legal, there would be more
instances of them. To use the lack of perfect implementation as a pretext for
legalization is equally absurd in the civilian world: Do we legalize criminal
behavior on the grounds that "people have always done it"? Another
parallel that is frequently drawn with gays in the military is that of the
situation of women in the military. Though largely a male
institution-"Symbolically, the military represents masculinity more than
any institution other than professional sports”-women have been a part of the
military since World War II and the women's support units have been abolished
since 1978.But, like that of race to homosexuality, the comparison is invalid.
Women are not permitted in combat units -an exclusion that for homosexuals would
be hard to implement, at best. They also have separate barracks and facilities,
which would be equally as unpractical to homosexuals. If the admission of
homosexuals into the military causes adverse effects on the morale of the
soldiers, then the debate should be re-opened there. The military's function is
to protect democracy. The sacrifices associated with military service may be
very great-up to giving up one's life. Excluding homosexuals from military
service seems petty, everyone should be allowed to defend their country.
Moreover, the politicizing of such issues undermines the military's faith in the
civilian leadership that guides it. The military is quickly loosing its
prestige, its traditional conservative values, and that is a good thing for most
Americans. Reinstating the ban would be a gesture of utter and sheer
digustedness in our military. Having homosexuals in the military is a matter of
military effectiveness-not of the homosexuals' ability to perform military
duties, but of the morale of the military as a whole. And, in the military, it
is always the good of the whole which must be considered before the good of the
individual. The ending of the Cold War and the re-definition of the military's
mission does not mean that we should make the military less effective. If a
policy in regards to the military does not improve its effectiveness, then it
should not be implemented. But when the implementation means giving a chance to
few who would like to serve out great nation, than it should be considered
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