Gay Vet Wants to Serve Openly

A gay Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq has petitioned to stay in despite having gone public with his sexuality.

Gay U.S. Soldier Wants to Serve Openly (AP)

An Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq wants a chance to remain in the military as an openly gay soldier, a desire that’s bringing him into conflict with the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret. “I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open,” Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it’s just not worth it.”

Stout, of Utica, Ohio, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent pieces of shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was operating a machine gun on an armored Humvee last May.

Scout may well be the Jackie Robinson of his cause. It’s rather difficult to come up with a compelling reason to keep a soldier who was wounded in battle and has the respect of his peers out of the military on the grounds that it would undermine unit morale. Especially at a time when the Army is desperate to recruit qualified soldiers.

I would note, though, that Scout knew what the rules were–they’re hardly secret. He could certainly have kept his homosexuality private had remaining a soldier been his top priority. Certainly, others have.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    I think the point he’s making is why does he have to stay in the closet after the price he’s paid. You’re exactly right, this is the Jackie Robinson moment. I think most soldiers don’t really give a rats ass about this, it’s mostly a big deal to those who aren’t even in uniform.

  2. Marcos Vazquez says:

    Sergeant Stout is an American hero, whose service should be applauded and exhalted. Instead of being kicked out of the military, he should stand as a role model for patriotism. The United States is the only western country to prohibit openly bisexual and gay patriots from serving. Our isolation on this matter is a blemish on our claim to be the home of the free and defenders of justice.

  3. Michael says:

    I would argue that Dred Scott knew what the rules were. I would argue that Rosa Parks knew what the rules were. I would argue that Nelson Mandela knew what the rules were.

    I would argue that this is the lamest argument that you have ever made.

  4. Michael says:

    I you don’t like getting attacked by dogs and fire hoses, just drink from the damned fountain that’s been assigned to you.

    Black people were such winers, don’t you think James?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Michael: I hope Stout prevails here. I merely note that he knew he would likely get booted from the Army once he came out. Rosa Parks knew she was going to get arrested, too.

  6. Michael says:

    James:

    I know you hope he prevails. But do you know how condescending it is to see you write what you wrote at the end?

    Imagine if you stood up there during the civil rights movement and said, “Well, Rosa knew what the rules were.”

    Now, maybe I read your post wrong in the beginning, but could have sworn it said “I would argue…” and not “I would note…” When I read it (or thought I did), it appeared to me that you were giving one side, and then giving your argument.

    But then, I probably read it wrong because I doubt you would change a post without noting it.

  7. James Joyner says:

    I’ve changed posts soon after posting after a re-read, although not in this case.

    I don’t think I’m being condescending, just noting that his own actions brought on the fight. The Army is doing what Congress has mandated they do under the law.

  8. Scott Dillard says:

    The guy did his job as ordered. What is the problem? I’m sorry, but this argument about close quarters rings a bit hollow with men and women pretty much serving side by side. If the Brits and the Israelis can deal with, so can we. I’m sorry if some guys don’t like serving with gay men. Some whites didn’t want to serve with blacks in 1948. It’s the 21st century – grow up.

  9. Jim says:

    James makes a good point: at this time it is not the AArmy’s choice. They are merely following the law. You can make a persuassive argument that the law is wrong but that does not allow the Army to disobey it. It is up to Congress to change the law and I would expect the change to occur soon…I only hope the military is make some advance plans for when that occurs.

  10. Marie says:

    Obviously he knew the rules. That is why rules are made, to be changed (or broken whichever). There used to be rules about slaves too, but you see how well that turned out. Yeah, you can say all you want he knew when he went in, but get a grip, who are we to judge the morality of sexual preference? Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Does no one read the Bible anymore? Judge not? Ring any bells? And please, I know all about the supposed comments also in the Bible about homosexuality. This coming from a book that told the story of 2 daughters seducing their own father after plying him with liquor. God, don’t get me started. Jacqueline Susann has nothing on the Bible.

  11. whatever says:

    Everyone here thinks the rules should be broken since they are “wrong”.

    Most of the very same people – especially James – would have a fit if instead of declaring his sexual preference he were trying to bring water to Schiavo two weeks ago because he thought what was being done with her was “wrong”.

    For the record, a lot of people think the rule about gays in the military is “right”. The military is not a microcosm of everyday life and has to have different rules and procedures.

  12. Anderson says:

    Will someone explain to me how the rule against gays in the military makes any sense now that we have women in the military?

    [Goes back to post to make sure answer not prominently displayed … check. Proceeds with comment.]

    Somehow, male and female soldiers are able to serve even though there’s a theoretical possibility that some will be sexually attracted to others. So I’m missing something here.

  13. Marcos Vazquez says:

    “For the record, a lot of people think the rule about gays in the military is “right”. The military is not a microcosm of everyday life and has to have different rules and procedures.””

    And those people have that belief based on error and bigotry. If the powerful Israeli, British, and Canadian military has had no problems integrating open gays and bisexuals into the military, it is irrational to think there is any logical reason to keep the current, antiquated policy. People who think the current policy is “right” are wrong.

  14. John says:

    James says,

    “He could certainly have kept his homosexuality private had remaining a soldier been his top priority.”

    Only the monumental arrogance of the abysmally ignorant could produce such a piece of shit as that.

    Just try to think for a minute, James: put yourself into the same situation and reverse the roles. Could you hide your heterosexuality from a bunch of your homosexual buddies? Would you want to? How would you feel about being forced to? How would you react to some dumb-ass, two-bit blogger pontificating that it’s your responsibility to hide?

    Or, how about this: Do you really want an army full of lying soldiers who are living every day in an agony of conflict?

    Do you imagine that we queers come equipped differently than you do? That we have some alien ability to switch off at will one of the most important parts of our selves?

    Try thinking before you write, James. I know there’s something good in you but, Jesus! you need to be spanked!

    John Hall
    Seattle Washington
    jfhseattle@cablespeed.com

  15. Michelangelo says:

    James is right about Sgt Stout knowing the rules. At this time, it is not permitted for openly gay people to serve in the military, and that is made abundantly clear to any potential enlistee.

    However, I do think that rule is overdue for a review. This isn’t the same military I joined 19 years ago. Back then, society in general was not as tolerant of homosexuality, and especially so the military, with its necessarily exaggerated notions of masculinity. Today, the pool of potential enlistees is generally quite tolerant of homosexuality, so the original rationale for prohibiting gays from serving seems, to me anyway, rather obsolete.

    I personally would have no problem whatsoever with allowing gays to be open about their sexuality and remain on active duty or in the reserve components, subject to the same restrictions against fraternization and inappropriate sexual conduct that heterosexuals must follow. It seems pretty stupid to be dismissing people in critical specialties just for being gay.

  16. Jim says:

    It is amazing the amount of people here who want the miltary to disobey the law and by doing so the Constitution. To have the military (I would imagine it would be the CJCS) deliberatly go against the law of Congress makes me very unconfortable and begins a very slippery slope…why stop with gays in the military….? Civil control of the military is one of those things that have kept us from becomming a military dictatorship and to see people here dismissing that in a an attempt to change social policy is disheartening.

  17. DaveD says:

    Please enlighten me (I apologize for my ignorance). Is there a specific honest-to-God, passed by Congress, signed by the President law not permitting openly gay indivduals from serving in the United States Armed Forces? Or is this a product of deeply entrenched policy? Just wondering.

  18. Michelangelo says:

    Please enlighten me (I apologize for my ignorance). Is there a specific honest-to-God, passed by Congress, signed by the President law not permitting openly gay indivduals from serving in the United States Armed Forces? Or is this a product of deeply entrenched policy? Just wondering.

    Homosexual sex is prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Early in President Clinton’s first term there were some changes made to how that particular law is enforced, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (basically a way of allowing gays to remain in the service as long as they aren’t open about their sexuality). So the current situation is a combination of laws enacted by Congress (the UCMJ) and the application of policy.

    And to Jim, I certainly don’t want the military to disobey the laws enacted by Congress. I just think it’s time to take a serious look at changing those laws. Sgt Stout, unfortunately, has to go, but perhaps his case can trigger a re-thinking of how the military deals with gay servicemembers.

  19. DaveD says:

    Michelangelo,
    Thanks for the quick reply. I was trying to figure out whether an act of Congress is needed to relax the policy or whether an Executive Order (as the President is the Commander-In-Chief) is sufficient.

  20. DC Loser says:

    Didn’t Truman integrate the armed forces by executive order?

  21. Anderson says:

    Yes, but Truman had guts.