Steve Chapman

But when the new day arrived, it turned out to be a big, fat non-event. The Canadian government reported "no effect." The British government observed "a marked lack of reaction." An Australian veterans group that opposed admitting gays later admitted that the services "have not had a lot of difficulty in this area."

Israel, being small, surrounded by hostile powers and obsessed with security, can't afford to jeopardize its military strength for the sake of prissy ventures in political correctness. But its military not only accepts gays, it provides benefits to their same-sex partners, as it does with spouses. Has that policy sapped Israel's military might? Its enemies don't seem eager to test the proposition.

You could argue that none of these experiences is relevant, since, being Americans, we are utterly unique. But our soldiers don't seem to have any trouble fighting alongside gay soldiers from allied nations.

Not only that, but it turns out the U.S. military itself has tried the same policy with satisfactory results. Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili has pointed out that "enforcement of the ban was suspended without problems during the Persian Gulf War, and there were no reports of angry departures."

That's right: We fought a war without the ban, and we won. In a pinch, our heterosexual men and women in uniform confirmed, they can function perfectly well amid openly gay colleagues.

That shouldn't be surprising, since the military requires its members to live with all sorts of people in close quarters and demanding conditions. A lot of recruits would be more leery of bunking next to an ex-con than a homosexual, but the military admits hundreds of felons each year, including some violent ones. If unit cohesion can survive the presence of killers, rapists and child molesters, why would it shatter on contact with gays and lesbians?

All recent experience argues that the American military would adapt fine to accepting gays. But when it comes to actual real-world evidence, supporters of the ban don't ask, and they don't tell.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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