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SENATE PASSES MILITARY GAY 'BAN-PLUS'
By Leslie Feinberg
President Clinton's sell-out policy on gays in the military was bad
enough. The Senate's version is worse.
Courting gay and lesbian votes in the 1992 election campaign,
Clinton had pledged to use the presidential prerogative to lift the
Pentagon's anti-gay ban. But once in office he waffled, and handed
off the question to Sam Nunn's Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Committee became a forum in which violently anti-gay slurs
spewed. The excuse for this spectacle? Clinton argued that
otherwise, Congress would step in and pass legislation that was far
to the right of any presidential "compromise."
But that's what's happened anyway.
"Don't ask, don't tell"--billed as Clinton's compromise--was the
same old same old. Gays would continue to serve in the military as
long as they never admitted their sexuality, wore a gay rights
button, spoke out with pride or even so much as held hands with
someone of the same sex.
It meant that lesbian and gay GIs, like monks, would still be
forced to endure vows of silence and celibacy.
But bad as "don't ask don't tell" was, now it turns out that even
Clinton's flimsy "gentleman's agreement" with the right wing in
Congress won't stand. On Sept. 9 the Senate voted into law an even
Emboldened by Clinton's demonstrated reversal on the issue, the
Pentagon has succeeded in enshrining the gay ban into law.
Congress bound its policy on gays in the military to next year's
$261-billion Pentagon allocation. Clinton either has to sign the
whole package or scuttle the budget.
He's not expected to do the latter.
'A RETURN TO THE STATUS QUO'
The brass's "concessions" in Clinton's plan amounted to a tacit
agreement that undeclared sexual orientation did not bar military
service. Recruits wouldn't be asked if they were lesbian, gay or
The policy also urged evenhanded enforcement of the Uniform Code of
Military Justice--a demand raised by gay rights groups.
Witch hunts would not be organized to ferret out "suspects." The
armed forces have already openly defied this part of the policy,
especially at several bases in the South.
The Senate version makes no reference to orientation, witch hunts
or the code. The bill simply bars homosexuals from military
Gleeful senators from both parties touted it as "ban-plus." The
legislation even explicitly empowers the defense secretary to
reinstate the policy of asking recruits about their sexual
But Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio called the bill what it is:
"This so-called codification is a return to the status quo," he
said. "Homosexuals will be hunted down and run out."
The House of Representatives is expected to approve the bill. If
so, for the first time the old ban's stipulations that prohibit
"homosexual conduct or homosexual marriages in the military" would
be written into federal law.
Same-sex marriages are currently illegal in the U.S. Do the brass
fear the lesbian and gay movement may be on the verge of a victory
in the fight to win equal spousal rights?
THE WAR'S NOT OVER
Clinton's cowardly collapse on this issue has been met with angry
demonstrations in the streets and lawsuits in the courts.
A federal judge sharply rebuked the Pentagon for the gay ban in a
decision at the end of August. U.S. District Judge Milton Schwartz
found that the ban on gays and lesbians in the armed forces is
Schwartz pointed out that any problems result from the attitudes of
heterosexuals, not the behavior of gays. A federal judge issued a
similar ruling in January.
But it's not as though the brass really believe their own arguments
that openly lesbian and gay service people would create havoc in
Last spring the Pentagon commissioned the Rand Corporation for a
$1.3-million study on how to lift the gay ban. The study concluded
that gays should be allowed to function openly in the military.
Rand is a highly conservative think tank with close ties to the
The 407-page study's conclusions were leaked to the media. But the
generals sat on it. Instead they went with another study--conducted
by admirals and generals.
That report concluded: "All homosexuality is incompatible with
military service. The effect on combat effectiveness is not limited
to known homosexuals."
Battle lines are drawn. The fight's not over yet.
(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 West 17 St., New York, NY 10011; via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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