I am sympathetic to the story told by Joseph Rocha, who claims in a Washington Post opinion column that he was discharged from the Navy because he is gay, though he says he never told anyone. Rocha says his male colleagues concluded he was gay when he wouldn't laugh at their dirty jokes about women or visit prostitutes with them.
Gay service members have a point when they claim a double standard exists for heterosexuals and homosexuals regarding sexual behavior. Rocha also alleges cover-ups by higher-ups about male sexual assaults on lesbians and the pressure he says lesbians feel to keep quiet because by "telling" they could face discharge.
But we are beginning in the wrong place. The place to start is whether citizens of this country, through their elected representatives and the military leaders named by them, have a right to determine what type of service members best serve the interests, safety and security of the United States. I contend we do. The military should not be a test lab. Pressure is building to put female sailors on submarines, along with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people presumably. That many heterosexuals find homosexual behavior immoral and not conducive to unit cohesion is of no concern to the social wrecking crew.
What gay activists apparently don't care about is the effect reshaping the military in their image would have on our ability to fight and defend the country, which, after all, is the purpose of a military. If the armed services were open to all behaviors (as distinct from orientations), recruitment might become more difficult. Some of the services have recently struggled to meet their recruitment goals, though overall enlistment is up because of the economy.
At the Human Rights Campaign dinner last Saturday in Washington, President Obama said, "I will end 'don't ask, don't tell.'" He also pledged to bring an end to The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. Obama knows -- or should know -- that he does not have that power. He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.
If Congress wants to repeal DOMA and change the military's behavioral codes, it can do so through new legislation. But that would put "Blue Dog" Democrats at risk of re-election, since they serve mostly conservative districts. They know their political careers would be over if they voted in favor of either gay marriage or for gays in the military.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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