Bad analogies in argument over gays in the military

April 20, 2010

Bruce Fleming makes some fair points in raising concerns that the military must think hard about how to enforce a new policy that lets open gays serve in the military ("Military's history will repeat," April 20). But Mr. Fleming stumbles in several of his points.

Mr. Fleming states that allowing openly gay service is not comparable to the integration of "soldiers of color" because "gender matters more fundamentally than skin color." Yet this is not how Americans experienced race generations ago. Indeed, while men and women have always lived together in the same household, many whites found the very idea of being in the same house with an African American totally unacceptable.

Mr. Fleming also confuses gender and sex, suggesting that one reason lifting the gay ban will be difficult is because we do not have "gender-integrated" bathrooms and sports teams. True, but our bathrooms, our sports teams and even our military barracks are already integrated by sexual orientation, even though many people do not know or acknowledge that they are sharing those spaces with gays.

Finally, Mr. Fleming says it is "highly unlikely that a sheltered young lance corporal from Idaho will bond as well with an openly gay Marine captain as he would with a straight one," and he insists this is not homophobia. This is an assumption that has been repeatedly asserted but not proven. In fact, there is much research showing the opposite — that gay-straight bonding has reached a new level, and the concerns of older generations are simply no longer relevant.

At a certain point in history, preferring to consort with a member of one group rather than another simply by virtue of the group identity can be called nothing other than what it is: prejudice.

Nathaniel Frank, New York

The writer is the author of "Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America."

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