What do Israel, Germany, Australia, Ireland, France, England, Spain, and 18 other countries have in common? They allow openly gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the military. Unlike the US, they do not have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy but, instead, treat it as a non-issue. Apparently, they agree with the statement by Barry Goldwater: “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military, you just have to be able to shoot straight.”

The third branch of government, the courts, ruled last week that the “DADT” policy violates the due process and free speech rights of gays and lesbians. US District Judge Virginia Phillips repealed the DADT policy in a ruling that will certainly be appealed to higher courts. But one wonders why such a ruling took so long. The ground for such a ruling was laid in the bipartisan agreement of the late 90’s to allow gays and lesbians to serve in our military so long as they kept their mouths shut and service people did not have to think about the fact there were gay people around them. Maybe the men and women who serve in our armed forces are qualitative different than the men and women who serve in the armies of Israel, Germany, Australia and so forth. However, I doubt if anyone actually believes that scenario. We have some of the finest men and women in the world willing to die to protect our freedoms so it is inconceivable, particularly in this day and age, to think that they would emotionally fall apart because a gay or lesbian was in their unit.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group within the Grand Old Party, filed suit in 2004 to overturn the DADT policy as unconstitutional. Before this lawsuit was heard, a three judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the DADT law was constitutional but the way it was applied by the military was not. In short, the military was required to prove that their discharge furthered military readiness. They have ignored that requirement and opened the military to these lawsuits. The latest court ruling was based on the complaints filed in the 2004 Log Cabin lawsuit.

In February of this year, an op-ed piece, by a Vietnam Vet, in the Wall Street Journal opined that “open homosexuality would threaten unit cohesion and military effectiveness.” In other words, our men and women in the military could not appropriately handle the knowledge of a gay or lesbian in their unit. That knowledge would so throw them off their game as to render the unit ineffective in battle. When I served in the military during the Vietnam Era, there were several gay men in our unit. No one considered it a big deal. Our cohesion was not disrupted. We still hung around together; no one was threatened by the fact a gay person ate, worked, and slept with us. We had bigger fish to fry. We were not so fragile as to believe serving alongside a gay person was a threat to us or our ability to complete our mission. I think we have to agree that Israel has one of the finest fighting forces in the world and gays and lesbians have served openly since the early 90’s. Are we any less of a fighting force than they are? Can we not handle what they handle so well?

Our troops have served alongside the armed forces of many of these 25 countries in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, they have fought alongside gay and lesbian troops, both known and unknown. Does anyone truly believe their effectiveness was hampered by such exposure? I have more faith in our troops than that, especially since I have been there and done that and am a better person for it. When someone believes that a person “chooses” to be gay, in the same way a person “chooses” to be straight, they can maintain antipathy toward this group. But you have to conflate sexual orientation with sexual behavior to believe choice is the central factor, in which case our prisons are full of homosexuals. It is time we move pass this vestige of prejudice.

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Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald

A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.