Military Weighs Ending Gay Ban
America’s senior military leadership is considering the ramifications of allowing homosexuals to openly serve.
The discussions, centered in a small group assembled by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are in preparation for a possible Senate hearing on the 1993 law this month.
In the year since Mr. Obama’s inauguration, the Pentagon has moved slowly on the issue and even now internal dissent remains over how fast any change should be instituted. At a meeting last week of Admiral Mullen and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, the officers debated the timing of any repeal and how much stress it would place on the forces.
A one-page memorandum drafted by staff members as a discussion point for the meeting said that the chiefs could adopt the view that “now is not the time” because of the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the military would be better off delaying the start of the repeal process until 2011.
The same memorandum, according to a military official who has seen it, also said that “every indicator of opinion over the past 16 years shows movement toward nondiscrimination based on orientation” and that “in time the law will change.”
The official said the memorandum did not necessarily reflect the views of Admiral Mullen and the chiefs. “Not all their views are the same,” the official said.
Neither Admiral Mullen nor Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has publicly voiced an opinion on allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly, although Admiral Mullen permitted a recent article criticizing the prohibition to appear in a military journal that he oversees.
The military’s academic journals have long allowed thoughtful, academic discussion of issues of interest to its members. That doesn’t imply tacit endorsement.
Ultimately, the military will do what it’s told and cope with the fallout as best it can. But there’s no doubt that there will be fallout. Military culture has moved substantially since 1993, when the current policy went into place, but it’s still much more conservative than that of the society writ large.
Whether forced on it by civilian leaders or allowed to evolve on its own, gays will be allowed to serve openly within the near future. The only questions are how it’s implemented, when it happens, and how the fallout will be dealt with.