Gay Participation Hurts Neither Military Nor Marriage

The hand-wringing about dire consequences is an attempt to dress up base motives in more respectable garb


Did you catch the big story out of Afghanistan the other day—the one about how a U.S. platoon was decimated in a nighttime raid? The soldiers couldn't fight effectively because their unit cohesion had disintegrated after one of them mentioned he is gay.

How about the recent study showing it is now impossible to train new jarheads at Parris Island? Marine recruits are so afraid a gay bunkmate might be eyeballing them in the shower that they can't follow even basic commands.

What about the recruitment crisis generally—and the tens of thousands of military personnel who have announced they will not re-up because they don't want to work with gays and lesbians?

You didn't hear about those developments? Don't be alarmed. Nobody did—because they never happened.  Yet they certainly should have, if those opposed to gays in the military were right. More than a year ago, the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) was formally repealed. Social conservatives had repeatedly predicted nothing less than utter disaster if that were to happen.

"Don't think there won't be a great cost," warned Sen. John McCain. Denouncing "Obama's radical social experiment" in National Review, Oliver North wrote that "our finest, most effective non-commissioned officers will leave the service." Sen. Rick Santorum said the end of DADT would threaten "unit cohesion" because (among other things) people in the military "obviously shower with people." Conservatives worry about showers a lot. Elaine Donnelly, the head of the Center for Military Readiness, said the problem of showers would be a "huge issue" and "throwing up a few shower curtains" would not begin to solve it.

James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said repealing DADT would "cost Marines' lives." At one point during the long debate, more than 1,100 retired generals and admirals released a statement warning that repeal would "break the all-volunteer force." Richard Land, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, declared not only that repealing DADT would "significantly degrade" military effectiveness, but that preventing repeal was necessary to "save" our military.

Fourteen months after repeal, how much of that prophecy has come to pass? None of it. Not one bit.

No big surprise there. Americans heard the same sort of claptrap during the debate over racial integration of the armed forces. Col. Eugene Householder declared that such sociological "experiments" were "a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat." Wrong. Mississippi Rep. John Rankin declared that desegregating the military was "one of the greatest blunders that could possibly have been made…. If we get into another conflict, it would do more to cripple our national defense than anything else that has taken place since Pearl Harbor." Wrong again.

Keep all of that in mind during the next six months, as the Supreme Court deliberates over gay marriage. Those opposed to it will say, as they have said many times: Gay marriage is unnatural; permitting it threatens "the institution of marriage"; it is part of "the homosexual agenda"; gays and lesbians are trying to "redefine marriage"; as the Family Foundation of Virginia avers, gay marriage "diminish[es] the status of marriage"; in the words of the National Organization for Marriage's Thomas Peters, opposing gay marriage is necessary to "protect" marriage; and so forth.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal recently, co-authors Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George oppose gay marriage by arguing that "weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest" and will foster "family breakdown." What's more, they write, same-sex marriage is unnatural, since it omits "sexual-reproductive complementarity." And furthermore, this truth has been recognized by "ancient thinkers untouched by Judaism or Christianity—including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes and Plutarch."

Ah, well then. Who could possibly argue with Musonius Rufus?

These arguments from tradition and natural law also have some ugly historical echoes. When Judge Leon Bazile convicted Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple, of violating Virginia's law against miscegenation, he insisted: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages." When, a few years earlier, the black group The Platters was arrested for playing music for white women, Cincinnati judge Gilbert Bettman berated them: "You have taken that which can be the core of reproductive life and turned it into a socially abhorrent, tawdry indulgence in lust." Sound familiar?

There was the real objection to racial mixing: disgust. Everything else—all the philosophical and legal rationalization, all the hand-wringing about the dire consequences that would surely follow—was simply an attempt to dress up base motives in more respectable garb. Fifty years later, that is painfully apparent to all.

The same story is playing out again now, with regard to gays and lesbians. And in another 50 years—perhaps 10—that will be painfully apparent as well.