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When President Bill Clinton made the announcement that he intended to follow through with his promise of lifting the ban on homosexuals from joining the military, it was met with mixed reactions. Some were totally opposed to such a move, while others welcomed it. In both Canada and Australia, the policies formulated to ostracize gay men and lesbians enlisting for military service have not succeeded (Britton and Williams 2).
While there are those who argue that admitting homosexual persons into the military openly would put to risk the good order, high moral standards, unit cohesion, and discipline in the military, on the other hand, proponents argue that lesbians and gay men should not be declared unfit for the service on account of their sexual orientation alone as they are just as patriotic, competent, and dedicated as their heterosexual counterparts (Herek 2). Based on the foregoing arguments, the current paper will endeavor to review the objective opinions of five sources on the topic at hand in the literature review section below. In this case, the ideas presented by each of the five sources will be analyzed critically in the context of the topic at hand.
In their article, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue: Military Policy and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity”, Britton and Williams present a detailed review of this military policy whose role is to exclude gay men and lesbians from participating in the military activities. Britton and Williams start by noting that when President Clinton announced his intention to lift the ban that restricted homosexuals from participating in the military service, a debate emerged in which the performance of lesbians and gay men was never questioned. It was argued that homosexuals are just as career-oriented, dedicated, and hardworking as their heterosexual counterparts (Britton and Williams 2).
Britton and Williams further note: “Though much has been made of the new policy’s focus on behavior, rather than orientation per se, in reality, Clinton’s policy actually represents little change from the rules it supersedes” (3). The article further argues that the military’s actions to exclude lesbians and gay men tend to give privilege to heterosexual male soldiers. Moreover, Britton and Williams note that such a privilege hampers the accomplishment of gay men and lesbians in military service (4).
The article by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network argues that to attain success in military combat, military units should be of good order, sound discipline, and cohesion (2). The article further argues that “one of the most critical elements in combat capability is unit cohesion” (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 2). The article also notes that, since military personnel is routinely required to work under such unique circumstances as sharing of showering facilities and sleeping bunks, the inclusion of homosexuals in the service would jeopardize the good order, discipline, high moral standards, and unit cohesion that are all vital for military capability (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 2).
There are three conditions under which the armed forces personnel may be de-listed because of having violated the military policy on homosexuality. First, the military personnel will be de-listed if caught engaging in or trying to engage in homosexuality. Secondly, one will be de-listed if he/she declares in public that he/she is a homosexual. Finally, the member of the military personnel risks being de-listed in case he/she has either married an individual of the same sex or is trying to marry such a person (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 2).
However, while President Clinton was announcing his intention to lift the ban that precludes gay men and lesbians from the military service, he revealed that this policy has been scrutinized extensively in college ROTC programs. He further added that sexual orientation should not be a basis for precluding people from military service. The President also noted that “there ought to be a presumption that people who wish to do so should be able to serve their country if they are willing to conform to the high standards of the military” (Clinton 2). The President further observed that homosexuals in the military service are devoted to both country and duty, not to mention that they serve with distinction.
Moreover, the President stated that studies on other quasi-military establishments like the fire and police departments where the ban has been lifted have not reported any negative effect on unit capacity or cohesion to accomplish the job (Clinton 2). Furthermore, heterosexual soldiers are just as prone to misconduct as gay men and lesbian soldiers (Clinton 2).
President Clinton’s arguments on why the ban that excludes gay men and lesbians from military units should be lifted appear to resonate with the views of Herek is an oral statement that he presented to the House Armed Services Committee. While noting that it is very hard to determine whether lesbians and gay men are fit to serve in the military owing to the difficulty in collecting such data, Herek however states that gay men and lesbians would likely engage in prohibited conduct such as sexual harassment as their heterosexual counterparts (2).
Herek has also provided an in-depth assessment regarding the question of whether admitting homosexuals into the military jeopardizes the unit cohesion and morale of the military units. Herek (7) admits that no data from the military would enable us to respond to questions about cohesion and morale convincingly. The author, nonetheless, notes that since the third of the American adults have already warmed up to the idea of interacting with homosexuals, in the same way, heterosexuals in the military would form interpersonal relationships with their gay counterparts. Herek (7) further notes that homosexuals conquer their intolerance towards homosexuals in a supportive environment that abhors prejudice and emphasizes common goals.
Elsewhere, Pattulo’s article, “Why not gays in the military” appears to contradict the President’s decision to lift the ban on homosexuals from participating in the military service. Patullo argues that the military brass does not support the President’s decision to include gay men and lesbians into the armed forces mainly because “the president intends that gays serve with other males in the same outfits and with no distinction being made” (Pattullo 38).
Another concern that Pattullo raises in opposing President Clinton’s proposition is that, even though the president has indicated his willingness to let the military impose strict laws that govern the sexual behavior of the military personnel of all ranks, he is still skeptical to whether such a move would eliminate the worry of military leaders that “enlistment of gays will be prejudicial to good order and discipline” (Pattullo 39).
Patullo further argues that admitting gay soldiers into the military openly is likely to compromise the unyielding hierarchy of command and stern discipline, for which the military is known. According to Pattullo, homosexuality within the military units would disrupt working relationships as it compromises the unquestioning obedience and discipline that the military service demands of its members (40).
The decision idea, that admitting homosexuals into the military units openly would affect the unit cohesion and morale of the military service, has received widespread criticism and backing in equal measure. On the one hand, those opposed to President Clinton’s desire to have the ban on the inclusion of gay men and lesbians into the military lifted state that open homosexuality would endanger the cohesion, morale, and discipline of the military force.
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In light of this, opponents argue that elevating the interests of gay men and lesbians above those of their heterosexual counterparts is a high price to pay. Others contend that acts of homosexuality are not compatible with the military service, as this is likely to stand in the way of achieving the desired military mission. Other critics argue that admitting gay soldiers into the military service compromises the traditional hierarchy of command in the military that is renowned for its unyielding and stern discipline.
On the other hand, those in support of the proposed decision argue that gay men and lesbians should not be denied the right to serve their country in the military because of their sexual orientation. They argue that homosexuals are not only competent but also serve both self and country with distinction. In any case, the ban has been lifted in the fire department and the police force, and, so far, there has not been reported any negative effect of this move on the morale and unit cohesion in these establishments.
Britton, Dana and Christine Williams. “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue: military policy and the construction of heterosexual masculinity”. J Homosex., 30.1 (1995): 1-21.
Clinton, Bill. Remarks by the President at the National Defense University. 1993. Web.
Herek, Gregory. Oral Statement of Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D to the House Armed Services Committee. 1993. Web.
Pattullo, Elias. “Why Not Gays In The Military?” National Review 40.82 (1993): 38-41. Web.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. 1993. Web.