Has Clinton Thought this Issue Through?

DAVID EVANS

November 13, 1992|By DAVID EVANS

Bill Clinton's promise to revoke the ban on gays in the military would mark the biggest social change to hit the military since July 1948, when President Harry Truman ordered the full integration of blacks into the armed forces.

An argument for the integration of gays was offered by retired Army Brig. Gen. Mike Lynch, a veteran of three wars who received a battlefield commission in World War II. ''Gays are a part of our society and should be part of a representative military. It won't be an easy task, but in 1948 the military assumed that blacks were going to cause a problem,'' he said.

Even General Lynch hastened to add, ''I can't see how gays would be able to 'practice' in a rifle company.'' He suggested there might have to be assignment ''restrictions'' barring gays from the close living conditions in front-line units.

That caveat gives away the case. In a May letter to Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., an ardent advocate of gay and feminist causes, Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out that ''Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral charac- teristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.''

Has Mr. Clinton really thought this one through?

First, the 14,000 gays discharged over the last decade would have every right to petition the military to be allowed back in. Pregnancy used to be grounds for discharge, and when this regulation was swept aside, many former servicewomen successfully petitioned for re-entry into the armed forces.

Don't forget the heterosexuals in uniform. If Clinton is willing to let gays in, will he be equally willing to permit service members out who object to the gay lifestyle? For sure, some of those heterosexual personnel will request immediate discharge based on their religious beliefs. Let's face it, the Old Testament is tough on the subject. For that matter, will chaplains be instructed not to preach the tenets of their faith?

Military recruiters may encounter parents who caution their heterosexual sons and daughters to think twice about joining a military that accepts gay enlistees. In civilian life, a person's decision to associate with gays is voluntary; in a military unit there is no choice.

Sodomy is a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Unless this part of the military's legal code were rewritten to permit consensual sodomy, gays in uniform would be relegated to celibate status.

We're talking a legal can of worms in which it might be lawful for same-sex couples to engage in sodomy on a military base that happens to be located in one of the 22 states where it's prohibited.

Post exchanges might be required to stock magazines like The Advocate, described by sex researcher Dr. Judith Reisman as the Ladies' Home Journal of the gay community. If Mr. Clinton is going to be issuing executive orders as president, he might consider banning the sale of pornography in PXs, which presently stock magazines such as Penthouse and Playgirl.

But then, Mr. Clinton was thinking of the gay vote when he first made the promise on the campaign trail -- which is to say he was thinking of himself and not the impact of his announced policy on the military as an institution.

David Evans is military-affairs writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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