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Ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

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Aired 2/8/10

President Obama wants to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law which bars homosexuals from serving openly in the military. We'll look at what it will take to change the law and the impact it will have on the military.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy in the U.S. military has been in existence for slightly more than 16 years. The policy stopped the military from pursuing investigations against suspected gays and lesbians but it did not stop them from being dismissed from the military because they are homosexual. In fact, some 13,000 gay military personnel have been discharged during 'don't ask, don't tell.’ Now, President Obama and many in Congress are trying to abolish ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense both testified before the Senate against ‘don't ask, don't tell.’ But there are still many, some within the military, who say allowing openly gay men and women to serve will undermine morale and make America's fighting forces less effective. To bring us up to date on where the issue stands in Congress and what it means to the U.S. military, I’d like to welcome my guests. Susan Davis is Democratic congresswoman representing California's 53rd District. She is the Chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. Her subcommittee has jurisdiction on the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Congresswoman Davis, thank you for being here.

SUSAN DAVIS (U.S. Representative, 53rd District, U.S. Congress): Very happy to be here. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Abe Shragge is professor of History, War and American Society at UCSD. Professor Shragge, welcome.

ABE SHRAGGE (Professor, University of California San Diego): Thank you very much, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Now we did invite all three San Diego Republican congressmen to join us for this discussion today but they were not able to join us in studio or over the phone. Speaking of the phone, though, we do invite our listeners to join the conversation, most especially members of the military. What do you think of President Obama’s proposal to end the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy? Call us with your questions or comments, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Congresswoman Davis, I wonder what your reaction was to Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he talked about ending the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ last week?

DAVIS: Well, I think that was a quite extraordinary moment actually when he spoke. That was on the heels of a budget hearing and certainly the members were all apprised of the fact that they were going to speak to the issue and take some questions as well. One of the things that our generals and certainly the Joint Chiefs of Staff are asked to do on occasion is give us your personal opinion, and I think that’s what the Admiral did. It’s something that he obviously had been thinking about a great deal, had throughout his Navy career been very aware of the situation and probably asked himself a number of times whether it was the best policy, and then he made the statement that he did, that I think was very, very important and certainly changed the discussion.

CAVANAUGH: Well, yes, because it was—I’m going to paraphrase here—was something along the lines of we’re asking our young men and women in the military to hide who they are while they defend the rights of others. And I didn’t see him say that myself but I read news accounts of it and it seemed as if the other members and some of the senators even were taken aback by – moved a bit by the personal nature of his comments.

DAVIS: Well, one of the responses that I know I always get, especially publicly of course, is that this is the law of the land and the military, of course, respects the law and follows the law. And so it’s difficult sometimes to entertain people, particularly in uniform, and at the high levels of our officers to say anything quite different publicly and that’s why I think it was quite extraordinary, important, and we will be able to, I think, have an open discussion from this point moving on.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Congresswoman Davis, you’ve scheduled hearings on this topic for March 3rd. What’s the purpose of the hearings that you’re going to be having in your subcommittee?

DAVIS: Well, we did already have a hearing. About two years ago, actually, we held the first hearing in 15 years on this subject. And we basically had people who had served in the military who had served in the closet, essentially, being gay or lesbian and they came forth to talk about their experiences. We also had people representing, passionately, the other side. And I think what I got from that particular hearing—and I’ll go on and talk about the next one—is really the professionalism of our military. We ask our men and women to do, you know, amazing things at great sacrifice, and we were impressed by – actually by both sides in some ways, that if given the order, people will be able to adapt and will be able to follow it. It was a bipartisan hearing. There were strong emotions on both sides. But I think that people coming away from them felt like this was an important discussion that we needed to have. Now, two years later, what we have wanted to do is meet with the military, meet with our leaders, meet with the Secretary of Personnel to say, okay, the country is moving, we have indications of that, certainly, and we want to know how do we proceed? How, if given the change in policy, we would be able to implement it. And I think, actually, people have been talking about this in a number of quarters now for some time.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Congresswoman Susan Davis, representing California’s 53rd District and Abe Shragge, professor of History, War and American Society at UCSD. We’re taking your calls with your questions and your comments about the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and its possible repeal. 1-888-895-5727 is our number, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Abe, because you’re a professor of the military history, I wonder if you could give us some idea of what the reasons are now that are being given for not repealing this law for keeping openly gay and lesbian members – people out of the military.

SHRAGGE: Well, the reasons that are being given now, Maureen, are very similar to those that have been offered over time, certainly since the World War II era, at any rate, that having gay people in the service is detrimental to the organization of the service, it’s detrimental to morale, it’s detrimental to social relations within the service, it’s bad for preparedness, it’s bad for the public image of the service. It causes combat readiness to deteriorate and decline. That’s the nature of the discussion against it.

CAVANAUGH: Many of those things were said before ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was implemented and some people feared that that would be – ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would result in some of those things you just said, a lack of readiness and so forth. Did any of those things actually happen because there were people who were homosexual within the ranks of the military but they just weren’t being pursued the way they were before.

SHRAGGE: Well, the military services studied these – this subject in depth during the immediate post-World War II period and the Department of Defense did as well, and in a number of studies, determined that these really were not the problems, that what was the issue here was prejudice and that – and custom and that the readiness of the service was really not at all impaired by having this kind of diversity.

CAVANAUGH: And yet Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it will take a year, Congresswoman Davis, to study how the military would deal with a repeal of the law. So, therefore, if they’ve already studied this subject, why so long?

DAVIS: I think that they see this coming forward in maybe three parts you would say. I think part of it is a need to really survey and understand how the current military is feeling and, quite honestly, I don’t know that there’s been that kind of an analysis lately. I think some people, and I could certainly understand the feeling, is that this is just a delaying tactic but I think there probably is something to be said for that. Service – Different services have their own culture and we do have a lot of young people coming into the service now. I think one of the – what – thing that really impressed me with some of the young commanders is that they don’t have a lot of problem with this; they actually have more difficulty when they have to actually give up an individual who may be serving, you know, quite magnificently in their unit but they know that that person has already come out and, you know, is really a potential individual for discharge. So I think we need to understand that better. Certainly, young people from throughout the country are going to have, perhaps, a different take on that, as do members of Congress. I’m certainly very aware of that, that members of Congress represent districts where they have probably less exposure to a more diverse population in their communities and so people are, you know, less comfortable with the idea and young people certainly come out of that experience. So it’s going to be important to do that and to understand we have both men and women serving, we have quite a number of women who are discharged from the military today in disproportionate numbers to those serving who have come out. Most of those discharges are because they voluntarily acknowledged that they were a lesbian. So I think that there are a number of issues here that we need to get a handle on. So part of it is the survey. I think the other piece of it is just understanding what are the policies that will be affected by that: housing, benefits, just – fraternization generally. I mean, how do we work with that, just as the general population has had to grapple with that, I think in some levels. And then finally, you know, what are – how actually would be the time frame for trying to implement the policy? So, you know, does it need to take a year? Maybe not, but I think that we don’t really know right now how long it’s going to take to do each of these pieces.

CAVANAUGH: We’re talking about the possible repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. I’m speaking with Congresswoman Susan Davis and Professor Abe Shragge. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call right now from Jim in Bay Park. Good morning, Jim, and welcome to These Days.

JIM (Caller, Bay Park): Good morning, and thank you for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.

JIM: I’m a military veteran. I was in the Navy for just shy of nine and a half years. And I spent five and a half years on a fast attack submarine, which is a socially intimate environment. You know, we spent a lot of time at sea in close quarters with the same bunch of people for extended periods of time. And during my time on the boat, I served with at least three people that I knew of who were gay and it was absolutely no problem at all. They were quite popular, it was generally known what their orientation was, and they were accepted members of the crew and they were productive and I’ve always felt that it was just a tragedy that within the military that we still persist in creating a second class citizen. And I really hope that this policy goes away.

CAVANAUGH: Jim, thank you so much for the call. I’m wondering, Abe, there was – When the Secretary of Defense said it would take a year to study how the military would deal with the repeal of the law, he did mention things along the lines of housing and fraternization policies and so forth. In terms of how the military operates, though, how would the repeal of the law affect military operations? Do you see it affecting it in any way?

SHRAGGE: Well, it really should not. And in speaking with the gay men and women I know who are in the service or lately out of the service, they’ve always said, we’re Marines first, we’re gay second, we’re sailors first, our gender identity is a secondary issue. They are most concerned with the job at hand. When they’re faced with a difficult technical situation or they’re in combat, they deal with the matter at hand, they don’t think about who and what they are; they think about taking care of their comrades, they think about taking care of the exigencies of the moment. This should not affect military operations.

CAVANAUGH: Congresswoman Davis, what actually needs to happen for this law to be repealed?

DAVIS: Well, there are certainly the Congress, in some ways – Well, it’s important that the Congress does act in terms of the policy itself. One of the changes that is being suggested right now is that in this period of time in really trying to approach the change in policy, that we not discharge individuals who a third party has come forward and said, you know, I’m outing this person. And I think that’s important to do that. There are other issues, I think, that perhaps, you know, they need to look at in regard to that, but I’m certainly very hopeful that we might be able to do that in the Defense Authorization Bill that is coming forward. So that would be the really first act of the Congress, to just put a hold on any discharges, and apparently that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of about, I’m not sure here, 30, 40% at least, I think, of those that come forward to the attention of the higher-ups.

CAVANAUGH: How does that happen under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell?’ The military is not allowed to pursue investigations based on nothing, but how, indeed – What proof has to be found to actually dismiss someone from the military on the grounds of being gay?

DAVIS: Well, there’s a whole list, I think, of policy issues there that were part of the law when it passed but the reality is that once that occurs, it puts people in a very difficult position, and I think that a lot of those discharges do move forward. Of course, there are some that are challenged in the courts.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Lisa is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Lisa. Welcome to These Days.

LISA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Yes. What would you like to add?

LISA: Well, I would just like to say that I am in favor of the repeal. I’m active duty military, Navy. I have been for 31 years and I’ve served on five ships. I’m going to Iraq next month. And I’ve lived through sexism, racism, and, yes, there’s lots of gays in the military who serve very well and I just think that they should pass the law and if they follow the rules with everything else, it just won’t be tolerated just like sexism and racism.

CAVANAUGH: Lisa, let me ask you, having served for quite so long. What does this – what kind of pressure does ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ put some of your fellow service members under?

LISA: Well, you know, I don’t know what pressure they would be under because obviously they can’t reveal…

CAVANAUGH: Can’t confide in you, yeah.

LISA: Exactly. And, you know, the position I’d be in, I’m really supposed to, if somebody was to confide in me, I am supposed to report them. So I don’t think that it’s like so – that they feel like they’re living, you know – really have to live, you know, in a corner and not speak about it, but – because everybody knows who the gay people are. But at the same time, they do, you know, do have to be careful because they know that it could end their career.

CAVANAUGH: And just one last question for you, Lisa, if I may, there are some people who say that there will be people who leave the military if, indeed, gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly. Do you – Is that your take?

LISA: No, not at all.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for your call. I really appreciate it. Well, Professor Shragge, that is a reason that is being given, that not only will people leave the military if ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed but they’ll have a hard time finding people, well, in this volunteer army to sign up.

SHRAGGE: That same argument was offered in the late 1940s before President Truman integrated the services racially, that this would affect recruitment, it would reflect badly on the readiness of the service, that well-qualified people who would be very uncomfortable if forced to serve with or next to or in close proximity to African-Americans would simply have to leave. That didn’t happen then and I would not expect it to happen in any great numbers now.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue our discussion on the possible repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy within the U.S. military and what the results would be of that. We will be taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And stay with us, These Days continues in just a few moments.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Congresswoman Susan Davis of California’s 53rd District right here in San Diego, and Professor Abe Shragge from UCSD, professor of History, War and American Society. We’re talking about the possible repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Services. We’re taking your phone calls, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Just to start out once again, Professor Shragge, I would like you to talk a little bit more about the other cultural attitudes, the cultural barriers that have existed within the U.S. military and how those issues were overcome when it came to segregation or when it came to women taking more of a part in the military services.

SHRAGGE: Well, the racial segregation and also the segregation of women, keeping women out of the service, broke down at a number of different times and those were times of war when the manpower need, the need for personnel, became extreme and in the World War – in fact, as far back as the Civil War as well as in World War I and World War II when it became necessary to get more and more people in uniform under arms, it became absolutely critical to embrace the population of the United States in all of its diversity. African-Americans in – certainly, in World War II and thereafter were represented in the service beyond their proportion in the general population. Women were brought into the services in much more limited numbers, very small numbers, during World War I and World War II, only a couple of hundred thousand all in all, but today they represent nearly one-third of the population of the service. The – When the Army and the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines need people, they’re going to have to go where they can to find them and among all of these groups, where – no matter how discrim – what kind of discrimination they might find elsewhere in American society, they see the Armed Forces as a place that should be fair, that should embrace them as citizens and that should allow them to serve their country. And during war time, they get that opportunity.

CAVANAUGH: But when the policies of segregation were actually changed by the Armed Services, what kind of training or how did the military actually implement that?

SHRAGGE: They implemented it very slowly and painfully. I’m not sure I can go to – refer to actual policies but I know that in 1948, when President Truman issued an executive order integrating the services, it was more than five years before the Army and the Navy managed to open their ranks in the way that the executive order and subsequent legislation required. It took a long time to do that. There was significant resentment. This was a period of great racial tension in the United States. It was the blossoming era of the civil rights movement. A lot of violence was brought to bear on those who were agitating in favor of civil rights and integration. And so it was a long and difficult road.

CAVANAUGH: Do you see it being easier for the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy?

SHRAGGE: I do believe it should be. In surveying my own students, asking how many of you actually know a gay person, a friend or relative, a classmate, the response is virtually 100%. Everybody does. We are not nearly as segregated a society as we used to be.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take some phone calls. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s hear from Jonathan in Fallbrook. Good morning, Jonathan. Welcome to These Days.

JONATHAN (Caller, Fallbrook): Hi. Thank you for taking my call. My comment was, you know, I’ve heard a lot of callers call in, you know, in favor of repealing the policy and I’m a Marine captain. I’ve been in the Marine Corps about six years. I’m getting ready to deploy next month to Afghanistan. But I’m solidly against repealing the policy and, you know, I’ll come out and say what I think most people are afraid, you know, to say because, well, for whatever reason. And the reason is – I’m opposed to it is because of Judeo-Christian principles in my upbringing, my belief that, hey, it’s just plain, you know, wrong, a perversion of nature or just not the way that, you know, that God created people or that we’re intended to live our lives. And, you know, of course there’s plenty of studies out there that people are born that way and whatnot and to be honest with you, there’s plenty of studies that say, you know, that people aren’t, that it’s a choice. But primarily, you know, the issue I think is we talk about that our nation, our population is ready to move on and accept them, it’s just, you know, somehow the military just has this policy that everybody’s ready to throw away but then you look at populations like the state of California, you know, one of the more liberal states in the country, typically, you know, arguably not. But anyways and they just passed a ban on, you know, same sex marriage.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

JONATHAN: And you see that all across the country, so it’s not like, you know, everybody’s just suddenly for this and we’re ready to move on. You know, there…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

JONATHAN: …are a lot of issues and to just kind of cram this down the throats of those of us—and, by the way, I’ve spoken to many people. This has been a discussion since I joined the Marine Corps six years ago, with a lot of people, and I’ve met maybe only one or two people that thought it was acceptable in all the…

CAVANAUGH: Well, Captain…

JONATHAN: …hundreds of people I’ve spoken to.

CAVANAUGH: Captain, let me ask you a question. If, indeed, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed, how will you deal with that?

JONATHAN: Well, one of my main problems, frankly, is going to be balancing the rights and – versus the passionate feelings, you know, that Marines have on the subject, you know, and keeping them, A, to be honest with you, keeping them safe, keeping them integrated, at the same time dealing with the – I think the conflict that there’s going to be, the endless teasing and, you know, a new era of hazing and, you know, under the table – Yeah, it’s going to take a long time for something like this to just be accepted. You know, it starts out in boot camp when 50, you know, Marine recruits or, in my case, officer candidates, are standing, you know, completely naked in the squad van and you go single file through the showers. You know, they separate men and women for obvious reasons. Now if you have, you know, homosexuals openly integrated into there, you know, it can make people very, very uncomfortable and, you know, you got…

CAVANAUGH: Jon, think…

JONATHAN: …questions, how should we keep men out of women’s barracks…

CAVANAUGH: Jon, think…

JONATHAN: …and so forth for obvious reasons so when, you know, Admiral Mullen talked about, you know, or Secretary Gates talked about that policy having to be studied, now you’ve got to have separate barracks and housing for them and…

CAVANAUGH: Jonathan, I have to cut you off because there are so many other people who want to talk to us. I really appreciate your phone call. It is very, very good that you called and gave us your point of view. I appreciate it. Let me move on to Taryn in Solana Beach. Good morning, Taryn, and welcome to These Days.

TARYN (Caller, Solana Beach): Good morning. Thanks for taking my call. Like the last caller, I spent ten years in the Marine Corps. Now I’ve switched to the Navy. I’ve been in the Navy for four years. And on the Navy side, there is a – I haven’t spoken to anyone that had an issue with this being repealed at all. On the Marine Corps side, after being a Marine for ten years and as a woman, there’s definitely still sexism issues out there as sad as it makes me to have to say that. I mean, there’s still women fighting to get into jobs. They’re very limited on a lot of the jobs they can do in the Marine Corps, even some still in the Navy. And when you look at the women and what they’ve gone through to fight for that, I think that this is going to be a process that we can achieve but it’s going to take a long time. And I think like the last caller said, you need to be aware that there are going to be some issues. I just got back from a deployment to Afghanistan and I was in a very small shower area, for example, and all the women had to shower in their very, very close, uncomfortable quarters. So if you’re going to bring in lesbians now, I don’t have an issue with that but I may not be as comfortable if I have to use those type of facilities, so those are just things that I would ask the military to take a look – or Congress, as they look at this, to take a look at and make sure that we slowly and carefully and safely for the gay service members make sure that this transition goes well. And I think there will be some probably unjustness in the beginning…

CAVANAUGH: Taryn…

TARYN: …much like women and African-Americans and all the other folks have had to go through when they came in so…

CAVANAUGH: Taryn, thank you. Thank you for your comments. I really want to get a response from Congresswoman Susan Davis because I think you’re hearing a little bit of what you’re going to be hearing in your hearings coming up next month. What is your response to both the callers we’ve just had on?

DAVIS: Well, I appreciate both of them for serving, certainly, and I think what we heard in that first hearing was the highly professional behavior that we expect of our military. Now, clearly, you know, people make mistakes from time to time but I think that it’s very important to recognize that people in the military will still demand a high level of professionalism and behavior codes and a whole host of other concerns that people may be experiencing or suggesting right now that would not be tolerated in the services. I think that people have to respect each other’s space. Certainly in the military we know that people are in very close contact. I was – you had the submariner earlier who spoke about his experience and I think the – it’s very important that those standards be communicated to everybody. And that process may take awhile to do that but I think that anyone who is serving knows that they have to respect one another who’s serving. I mean, that’s the whole thing about unit cohesion and having the kind of bonds in the services. I think the issue that makes people want to look closely at this policy and overturn the repeal is that you’re asking people, very much as Admiral Mullen said, to serve in a kind of lie. And you have officers who cannot reveal the fact that they have a partner at home or think about if they were to be seriously injured, that their companion, their partner, cannot be contacted in the case of their being hurt. So I think that it is important for people to try and get a handle on what it’s like for those who do have to serve their country to be in a situation where they’re in harm’s way all the time and yet not have the support of their fellow peers with who they are. That’s important. I hear what others are saying and I think it is going to be a process, and it’s something that we’re going to have to work through.

CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know that if you can’t get through on our phone lines, you can post your comments at KPBS.org/thesedays. Let’s take another call right now. Richard is calling from Carmel Valley. Good morning, Richard, and welcome to These Days.

RICHARD (Caller, Carmel Valley): Good morning. Thank you very much for taking my call. I just wanted to make a comment. I think the emphasis on this issue and all the time and energy that’s being spent on it including, frankly, this radio show, yeah, is misplaced. I just think that this issue may have some symbolic importance for some people but, frankly, I don’t see gays breaking down the doors to try to join the military. Leave the decision to the military professionals. We’ve got 10% unemployment, a trillion and a half deficit, healthcare issues, we’re fighting two wars. In the larger scheme of things, I just don’t think this is very important.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Richard, thank you for the phone call and thank you for adding that to our discussion. I’m wondering, though, Professor Shragge, from the level of our phone callers, there seems to still be a great deal of passion surrounding this issue.

SHRAGGE: It is a passionate issue but all issues of discrimination typically are, whether racial or any other type. How – A question that’s always on my mind on the subject is how do you keep a whole class of Americans who want to serve their country from serving their country? On what basis can we do that? And this gender identity question is not an appropriate answer to that. That there are always ways to discriminate against others, and that’s something that seems to be an old human habit. People who are qualified for service who want to serve, who have something to contribute, and want to contribute in this way, should have an avenue to do so. This is how you define your citizenship.

CAVANAUGH: And one – a point one of our callers wants to make as well and we don’t really have time to take the call, is that other countries have gays in their ranks and they don’t seem to have a really big problem with it, Professor.

SHRAGGE: They function quite well. We’re talking about Britain, Holland, several other countries in Europe, Israel. And their services function at the level they expect. Considering that they are integrated in this regard, it doesn’t seem to be a detriment.

CAVANAUGH: Congresswoman Davis, I’d like you to tell us a little bit more about what the Secretary of Defense means when he says that the current law’s going to be administrated more fairly until the time when and if the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is actually repealed.

DAVIS: He was referring there to the third party, I believe, that outs an individual and that he feels that it’s – that’s not really fair, that it’s one thing for someone on their own to come forward and say, you know, I’ve been trying this, it’s not working for me. I feel harassed, whatever that might be. And it’s quite obvious that this person is truly who he says he or she is, then that’s one thing and that’s where really a large bulk of the discharges are. But on the other hand, sometimes people just, for whatever reason, I mean, they know somebody is gay or a lesbian, have been serving with them, got angry over something, and then chooses to try and out that individual.

CAVANAUGH: Some were hoping for a moratorium on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ discharges until when and if there is a repeal of the policy. Do you see that happening?

DAVIS: Well, I think it’s – what’s being suggested here is a kind of limited moratorium. I don’t know whether the language that comes forward would be a total moratorium. I suspect that it might be easier to get this limited moratorium through with more support.

CAVANAUGH: I – We’re just about out of time but, Congresswoman Davis, when do you think that we’re going to see some sort of vote on this?

DAVIS: Well, the authorization, the Defense authorization would be voted on by both the House and the Senate and then conferenced and that can happen as early as, you know, late spring…

CAVANAUGH: Really?

DAVIS: …into – and perhaps into the summer, depending upon the way the actions take.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you both so much and I also want to thank all those listeners who wanted to call in and who did call in. If you didn’t get your call on the air, please do post your comments at KPBS.org/thesedays. Congresswoman Davis and Professor Shragge, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

SHRAGGE: You’re very welcome, Maureen.

DAVIS: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And you’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'LisaT'

LisaT | February 8, 2010 at 9:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

For as long as there have been militaries, there has been problems with sex -- inappropriate relationships with civilians, rape, pregnancy, even sexually motivated murders, etc. Please note that these problems are with HETEROsexuals.

Sure, some people will be "uncomfortable" showering and sleeping next to someone they know is gay, but personally I am uncomfortable in those situations regardless of gender or preference.

Unless you want to date the person, his/her sexuality is none of your business and that person should not be discriminated against because of it -- Not in military, marriage, employment or anything else.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ListeningGuy'

ListeningGuy | February 8, 2010 at 10:20 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

I concur with Lisa T (first post). Further, I'll add that it is not homo- or heterosexuality per se that is the problem; indeed, many other countries allow and even recruit gays to serve in their militaries, and according to what I've read and heard, such integration is not an issue.

It is my opinion that the biggest part of the problem in the United States is simply one of ignorance and fear mired to a large degree in evangelical Christian beliefs exacerbated by an anachronistic Puritan ethic. Think of Sarah Palin, for example, to understand how flat and intellectually void those arguments can be.

Sadly, this kind of thinking still pervades parts of our society and repeatedly is found to rear its ugly, hypocritical head.

Many will argue that there are, indeed, bigger fish to fry in light of the country's current predicament. And sure, integrating gays into the military will cost money -- probably a lot of it. That doesn't matter, as it is never too soon to work for ensuring equality in this country. We do not have a perfect union, but we must continually work toward it.

Back in the day, I'm sure blacks' and women's suffrage, interracial marriage and integration of bathrooms, busses and drinking fountains cost quite a bit, too. No one in his right mind today would question the righting of those wrongs, and no one would complain about the amount of money we spent doing so.

Be also reminded that the arguments against repealing those social wrongs were also mired in similar (and misguided) religious and anthropological argument that certain people were unworthy.

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Avatar for user 'jon_826'

jon_826 | February 8, 2010 at 11:15 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

I too agree with the previous comments. One thing I would point out to you ListeningGuy is that, yes it will cost money, but with thousands of troops - often more specialised and highly trained troops - who have been kicked out, the US military has invested millions of dollars on these men and women, then lost their skills due to the policy. Many have stated openly that they would re-enlist in a moment if given the chance.

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Avatar for user 'jon_826'

jon_826 | February 8, 2010 at 11:18 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

The point I actually wanted to make though was that I was relieved to hear the Marine officer call in to state that his issue with gays serving openly is because it supposedly goes against Judeo-Christian values. The follow-up comment by the Professor was dead on in stating that there is always a hard-fought battle when discrimination is involved. If someone is claiming their support of discrimination is based on Judeo-Christian values, then I would hope that they can truly act in a way that Jesus preached regarding acceptance and love of fellow man when the ban is lifted. Adultery is a sin in the laws of Jesus, yet he socialized with a prostitute and respected her enough to treat her humanely.
As pointed out by comments above, there have always been issues with hazing and sexual misconduct. This is dealt with as it arises. But for the officer to make a blanket statement that these people - gays in the military - are sinners and should not be allowed to serve is a horrible propaganda tactic that shows the underlying prejudice of so many people. Whether or not the gays in the military are carrying on an intimate relationship with someone while serving, they should not be allowed to serve is the essential statement. So on one side of the mouth, I hear from some Christian leaders that gays can change or they can simply abstain from sex and be all good again with God. However, this officer speaking on air made it clear that it doesn't matter whether they abstain. In his eyes, these men and women are not fit to serve honestly no matter what.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | February 9, 2010 at 10:17 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

As a veteran myself I am aware of how contentious the issue of allowing to homosexuals to serve was back when Clinton was in office. I'm glad to see that the ice is begining to melt on this, and that top defence officials are coming forward to speak out against "don't ask don't tell. The fact is, our military does a really good job of integrating people from all sorts of backgrounds, and a person's sexual orientation should have no bearing on whether or not they can serve. The bedrock of why our military is as good as it is is discipline, professionalism, and a shared sense of loyalty to our nation and the freedoms and values we profess. Everyone who becomes a member of the military family knows racism is not tolerated, sexual harassment isn't tolerated, that unprofessional behavior of any sort is not tolerated. There is nothing about homosexuality in of it's self that isn't covered by those requirements. Bottom line, if you can get the job done and keep it professional, we need you on this team and can't afford to get rid of people who just happen to be attracted to those of the same sex.

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Avatar for user 'Pondering1'

Pondering1 | February 9, 2010 at 1:12 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

As a military member for 16 years, I will follow orders as directed, regardless of my personal view. What is my view? I believe sexual orientation (hetero, homo, bi, etc.) is a private matter. I don't understand why it's necesarry to make an announcement. We fail to see the real issue. The issue is that gays and lesbians are getting kicked out of the military. I say, "keep it
professional," "keep it private," and "don't discharge gays and lesbians." We need to change the real issue, not make it a big LBGT parade. Whether America and its military tries to convince us that the LBGT lifestyle is unnatural, we need to have the courage to say it is not natural, for religious and non-religious reason. There are plenty of non Christians that know that LBGTism (is this a word?) is not natural. Based on natual law, nature establishes our orientation. You may have other tendencies but you can't debate nature. If LBGTism was normal, LGBTs would not internally struggle so much to just be. From a sexual orientation/preference perspective there are several sexual orientations one may prefer or want to experience (gay, lesbian, bi, beastiality, pedophilia, cyber-sex, origies, etc.) but it doesn't mean it's right!

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Avatar for user 'Pondering1'

Pondering1 | February 9, 2010 at 1:14 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

I had a typo. Whether America and its military tries to convince us that the LBGT lifestyle is natural, we need to have the courage to say it is not natural, for religious and non-religious reason.

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Avatar for user 'LisaT'

LisaT | February 12, 2010 at 10:13 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

Not "natural"?! Having grown up on a farm, I can tell you that all sort of things happen in "nature". Sure, animals are biologically programmed to reproduce, but that doen't mean that all animals (including human) only interact physically/sexually for the purpose of making babies. Are you also pondering whether the only people who should marry are those who promise to have sex only with eachother and have children? Rules out the infertile, older, etc.

I was talking with a friend who lived in Japan, and he said having only gay solidiers stationed at based there might be welcomed by the Japanese, as it would lessen the risk of their school girls being raped, as has happend on more than one occasion. Rape should certainly not be considered "natural", but it is all too common by heterosexuals.

By all means, all members of the military should behave in a professional way and keep their private lives private, but that has nothing to do with orientation. Pity that some people are so obsessed with sex that they must know who is doing what to whom so they can condemn it.

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Avatar for user 'yermama'

yermama | March 8, 2010 at 10:28 p.m. ― 4 years, 6 months ago

Seems like the heart of the issue is the showering - the IDEA of someone you find completely unattractive appraising you sexually.
Yes, feeling like a piece of meat is a horrible degrading feeling, but girls over the age of 11 or 12 deal with it every time they leave the house, I'm sure the warriors can find a way to cope.

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