Thank you for the "Gay '90s" articles (Aug./Sept.). I'm sure that not all of your readers share my enthusiasm for them, and I applaud your decision to run them. I've appreciated and respected REASON from the first time I picked up an issue, and now that respect is carved in stone.
Paul G. Anater
I enjoyed reading David Link's article and especially liked his point, too rarely allowed by homosexuals, that his sexual life is only a part (not a comprehensive whole) of the person he is.
I also think Mr. Link was right on target with his recognition that the polar groups, "religious radicals" and "gay radicals," not only mirror but seem to subtly create the need for each other with their apocalyptic thinking. Mr. Link distances himself from both groups by asserting that, while he is gay, he is not queer. I would like to suggest that there is also a group that mirrors the position Mr. Link has taken. There are Christians who realize that one's sex life is rarely his defining characteristic and that it is a dreadful mistake to reject a person whose sexuality they nonetheless consider immoral. I respect and accept Mr. Link and wish that more families would, like his, remember that it is not their responsibility to judge, but to love. Mr. Link is not queer and neither, I hope it will be acknowledged, am I a radical.
John S. Rogers
White Plains, MD
If you have nothing better to do than promote gay and lesbian "rights" with three feature articles, you can be assured that my subscription will not be renewed.
Brian J. Monahan
The "gay" rights articles suggest that your editorial board is in need of a long rest. "The Third Way," by Carolyn Lochhead, demands, in effect, that the term marriage be redefined to include homosexual relationships. The traditional family has been a bulwark of self-sacrifice for the sake of future progeny, while the homosexual community extols instead the indulgence of sybaritic impulses. Since persons engaging in same-sex sodomy cannot propagate their members without seduction, this means that two-parent families—already under long attack by Washington policy makers and cultural elitists—must be obliterated by eliminating their last legal sanctuary: the nominally recognized institution of marriage.
What sodomites do behind closed doors is their business, but insistence on redefining family relationships and societal approbation for pernicious lifestyles is more than some economic libertarians will tolerate. If we are supposed to respect the "value" of such pathologies, shouldn't we also include polygamists, or orgy-cultists, or pyromaniacal gangs, or people who share narcotics needles, in a new, expanded definition of family?
Gerhard W. Thielman
Ms. Lochhead replies: My article did not "demand" anything, other than perhaps a more careful reading than Mr. Thielman gave it. My point was simply to assess the direction the gay rights movement might now be taking, seeing as how it has suddenly found itself at a philosophical and historical crossroads.
The marriage issue I thought particularly provocative for libertarians, because it is a state-granted sanction with broad legal implications. Clearly Mr. Thielman thought so as well.
The theme of Richard Mohr's article criticizing Clinton's handling of the gays in the military issue ("Military Disservice," Aug./Sept.) is that Clinton should have cast the issue as one of rights and pursued that strategy consistently. But Mohr does not explain the reason for his claim that military service is a right.
In fact, no such right exists. The rights of all Americans flow from the Constitution. All the rights listed in the Constitution are negative rights. There is no constitutional basis for the premise that there exists such a thing as an affirmative right to anything. A "right" to a military career would certainly fall into that category.
Government exists for the purpose of protecting the negative rights of individuals to be secure in their persons, property, businesses, and private affairs from interference by the state or other forces. The military is a means to protect those negative rights from violation by other nations or groups.
In matters of military policy, the main concern is determining what level of military capability best protects these rights and what is the most efficient way of achieving or maintaining that capability. Just as directors and managers of corporations have a fiduciary duty to operate their businesses efficiently for the benefit of the stockholders, the government's primary concern is supposed to be giving the taxpayers the best defense their money can buy.
No individual has a right to require a private-sector employer to give him a job. Indeed, it would be impossible to exercise this alleged affirmative "right" without violating the negative right of the employer to be free from interference in his business affairs. The same principle applies when the employer is the federal government.
Among other things, Professor Mohr asserts that "matters of rights can never legitimately be left to the tender mercies of majoritarian rule"; that "government exists for the sake of the individual" and "the individual is [not] to be viewed as a resource for society"; that "the ability to serve in the armed forces has been a defining characteristic of full citizenship"; that "government may not place people in a degraded status because of what they are, as opposed to what they do"; and that bigotry, fear, and hatred should "be given no weight at all in determining whether discrimination against a group is rational."
In our representative democracy, all policies are determined indirectly by majority rule. The Constitution and all of the laws are intended to represent the wishes of the majority. It is safer to have power reside with a majority of the people than in the hands of those who think they have both unique knowledge of what is right and the moral authority to impose it on everyone else.
Many citizens are turned down by the armed forces because of physical and mental impairments, while maintaining full citizenship rights and the respect of their fellow citizens. They are not degraded by the selection process. It is simply understood that blind, deaf, or paraplegic citizens do not make the best soldiers.
Not all opinions that differ from Professor Mohr's spring from bigotry, fear, and hatred. There are sound reasons for keeping avowed homosexuals out of the military. Perhaps the best analogy is the relationship between men and women in the military: They are segregated. They do not shower together or sleep in adjacent bunks, for the obvious reason that sharing all facilities would encourage sexual interactions that would interfere with military activities. Isn't it just as obvious that avowed homosexuals, who cannot be segregated, should not share showers, barracks, and foxholes with the objects of their sexual drive?
George L. Clark
Manhattan Beach, CA
Your "gay '90s" articles are very relevant to me. I have several homosexual friends and relatives. Fortunately, our family's attitude is similar to that of David Link's—probably because our family's homosexual members seem to share his attitudinal and behavioral traits. I feel very strongly that homosexuals should not be deprived of rights to which they are entitled as "persons" under the Constitution and certainly that they should not be persecuted.
But with 26 years of active military service, I take exception to some of the positions advocated by Richard D. Mohr. During my service I encountered a number of homosexual military persons. Without exception all served effectively and efficiently, and none, to my knowledge, was dismissed from the service because of his homosexuality. With one exception, all were dealt with tolerantly by their colleagues, superiors, and subordinates, and the efficiency and effectiveness of their units were not adversely affected.
This experience occurred, of course, during a period when homosexuality was officially proscribed by military regulations. The reason that the homosexual military persons of my acquaintance had no obvious clashes with comrades or the authorities was simply that they did not flaunt their homosexuality. Some stayed "in the closet," but the homosexuality of several was more or less public knowledge. The point is, nobody made a "big deal" about it.
Mohr appears to advocate the inclusion of "openly gay" persons in the U.S. military. What he means by "openly" is unclear. He argues that "government may not place people in a degraded status because of what they are, as opposed to what they do." What they "do" is precisely the problem. Our combat forces consist mostly of young virile men with raging hormones who tend to believe that they are immortal. If "openly gay" persons are integrated into the combat forces, I fear these realities may result in adverse consequences.
The "don't ask, don't tell" approach favored by defense officials and a majority of Congress appears to be an appropriate reflection of the circumstances I have experienced. Military life includes a whole lot of regulation, and regulation of sexual orientation should not be an exception.
Col. D. H. Hunter (Ret.)
Mr. Mohr replies: I take no position on whether there is or is not a freestanding right to serve in the military. The constitutional rights violated by the military ban on gays are rights to equality and privacy. Equality is a right not to be degraded by the government—not to be held in lesser moral regard for reasons other than one's actions.
To understand privacy violations, think of them as parallel to violations of religious freedom. If the government doesn't throw Mormons in jail for being Mormon or doing Mormon things, but does deny them driver's licenses and jobs, we would still consider these denials violations of their religious rights—even if we think of constitutional rights basically as "negative liberties." So, too, if the government doesn't throw gays in jail, but does deny gays jobs in the military for being gay or having gay sex, it still violates privacy rights, even if we basically view privacy rights as "negative liberties."
At a minimum, rights are minority claims against democratic majorities. Otherwise it would make no sense to have democratically enacted laws declared unconstitutional. If, as Mr. Clark claims, all rights are products of democracy, then either there are no rights or the notion of what a right is has been revised beyond recognition.
Crazy, blind, deaf, and paraplegic citizens are disqualified from serving in the military because they are unable to perform necessary military functions. In none of these conditions does the ability depend upon other people's perception of the condition. In contrast, other people's perceptions are the only thing that allegedly disqualifies gays, who (as every general is willing to admit) have served admirably as soldiers. It is bigotry alone that is keeping them out.
This year the Pentagon commissioned a Rand Corporation study on the effects of integrating openly gay troops. It found there would be some tensions (there always are tensions in the military) but none that could not be overcome if the Pentagon exerted leadership. But Colin Powell, Les Aspin, and Bill Clinton weren't up to leadership. Instead, Clinton, pandering to prejudice, dumped on gays in a desperate attempt to overcome the wimp factor.
License to Steal
Under current law, police can go back a few years through arrest records to find forfeitable property ("Ill-Gotten Gains," Aug./Sept.). Think about it. Where did you buy that used car? Could the last owner have used drug money to buy it first? If so, it's up for grabs.
A bill the California Legislature is considering, SB1158, would allow police to seize innocent owners' property if they aren't vigilant enough to make sure their tenants aren't selling drugs. The government doesn't even have to charge the tenants. And if you were foolish enough not to spy on your tenants, the government also takes the rent they paid you and any assets you bought with the money.
This will not stop with drug crimes. The White House has recently announced that the federal government will apply forfeiture laws to the transportation of illegal aliens. The next step will be to forfeit the assets of people who hire (or rent to) illegal aliens.
Running Springs, CA
I work for a Florida company that helps various Southern states recruit businesses to their areas. After California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and the Democratic legislators proposed forfeiture of businesses that employ illegal aliens, our company sales literature was revised to acquaint corporations with this latest anti-business measure from California.
My boss says that just the proposal of such an incredible penalty will be a sufficient deterrent to prevent any large or medium-size business from moving to the Golden State. "Imagine—if just one middle manager cuts corners or inadvertently hires an illegal worker, the entire business could be lost," he said gleefully.
Boca Raton, FL
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".