Don't Ask, Don't Tell 2000                                               from Minnesota Libertarian, March 2000


                For the most part, the military gay ban has stayed on the back burner since the "debate" and "DADT" legislation of 1993/94.  But late in 1999, after years of witch-hunts, a tragic Army gay-bashing murder and 60 Minutes Report, and an attempt by the Army to discharge a Republican Arizona legislator, have motivated Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Bill Bradley to resume the debate and propose that gays and lesbians be allowed to serve in the military with relative openness.

                The Minneapolis Star Tribune on Dec. 20, 1999, published an editorial that characterized the Don't Ask, Don't Tell "compromise" as "rooted in deceit, wholly inconsistent with the strict requirement for honesty which the military imposes on all its members."  On the other hand, Republican politicians accuse the Democrats and other liberal commentators as "unwilling to listen to military leaders."  Oddly, some conservatives now maintain that DADT largely "works," that most discharges result from self-outing, and that attempts to lift the ban again could backfire and lead to resuming outright "asking" of sexual orientation of recruits.  

                As before, both "sides" are talking past on another, according to their own paradigms for political correctness, unwilling to look at legitimate arguments on the other side.  Indeed, the only constructive solution would have been a code of conduct, which now the British military will impose equally on all servicemembers, heterosexual and homosexual.  Rand Corporation had recommended the same thing in 1993.  Such a code would limited discharges to visible, provable misconduct.  What we got instead was a policy that uses the tricky doubletalk of "rebuttable presumption" to equate status and speculation with actual (mis)conduct. Amazingly, appellate courts are upholding this as constitutional because of the enormous deference to Congress (as an explicit power) and the Executive to regulate the military.   Possibly, however, the case of  Arizona Rep. Steve May could turn the judicial tide since the policy has interfered with the ability  of a (gay) elected official to speak freely about public policy issues. 

                But something else about the conservative claims for military deference is indeed quite hurtful. That is, the insinuation that gays and lesbians somehow, by their carrying out of their own personal lives, pose a burden upon national security.  In like manner, marriage and adoption laws insinuate that gays and lesbians burden the "family."  Gays are depicted, by official government policy, as freeloaders; indeed "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is indeed a "leech," as characterized in the script. Government officially declares gays to be second class citizens as a matter of law, and then turns around and pretends that it can protect them from discrimination as a "class."  How dishonest!

                Government gets away with deceitful "compromises" like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because history has always tended to treat people as members of groups rather than deal with them as individuals.  For the proper way to debate "gay rights" (sic) is to pose the question: shouldnít any adult be able to choose his or her consenting adult significant others without the mediation of or interference from society?  Indeed, this is an ultimate libertarian precept.    

                Indeed, "gays in the military" comes across as the nucleus of any political debate that centers around an individual rights-and-responsibility paradigm.  For the military today still has the right to draft young men and compel them to surrender their lives and bodies for women and children. It just hasnít exercised that warrant since 1973.  The government can draft young men, out them, and set them up for discrimination.  Government, with its own intentional circularity, can even make young gay men into security threats.

                This interpretation has particular relevance to me.  I was thrown out of the College of William and Mary in 1961 for telling the Dean of Men that I was a "latent homosexual," with the college using the same rationale that the military uses today. Then, I fought my way from 4-F to 1-A status and actually had myself to "redeem" myself according to the Cold War mentality under which I was raised.

                Indeed, then, we should relish a debate over private sexual freedom, and the freedom to be oneself.  In the 1970's, we seemed to be making "progress": gays could have their "privacy" but just not be allowed to take real responsibility for others (like by serving their country in the military or by marrying their chosen partners and serving as parents).  Now, we perceive the moral weakness of such a "compromise."  We are led to deal with insufficiently discussed tensions between those raising families and those with no one to look after other than themselves; we are then forced to ponder the apparent (deceptively so) "narcissism" of homosexual interest and aesthetic motivations against the procreative complementarity of conventional family life (not to mention the social structure and accompanying social myths that give everyone, regardless of talents, a place). Debate all this we must. But it is inescapable, that we all stand to benefit from a recognition of greater personal freedom, along with the expectation of the responsibilities, some of them subtle, that go with this freedom.  Allowing gays to serve openly in the military, to marry, and to adopt could go along way towards this reconciliation.


Copyright 2000 by Bill Boushka and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota