Peter Moskos — the son of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ founder Charles Moskos — writes in today’s Washington Post that the military’s support for repealing the ban on openly gay service would have convinced his late father, who came up with the now infamous compromise in the 1990s, to come out for repeal as well:
Today, 17 years later, I am convinced that my late father would support the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But to understand why he would embrace this change, one needs to understand the nuances of his support for the law in the first place — and his love for the military and the enlisted man in particular. [...] My father was no homophobe; he had nothing against gay people. He didn’t care if gay men hit on him but noticed how rarely it happened (“they don’t like fat ugly guys like me anyway”). He just didn’t want to get naked in front of people he knew were gay. He always shifted the argument away from sexual orientation and toward issues of privacy. Perhaps it was generational, but my father believed in something that seems quaintly old-fashioned today: sexual modesty. [...]
Before my father died in 2008, I asked him to reverse his support for the law. “Be on the right side of history,” I said. I also appealed to the newshound in him, “Just think of all the press you’ll get!” He did like the idea of one last hurrah, but he would not turn his back on the military. His continued commitment to “don’t ask, don’t tell” was exactly as deep as the military’s continued support.
And now the brass is shifting. A few months ago, Gen. Colin Powell, one of the law’s original supporters, reversed his position and came out against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Powell would have likely asked for my father’s support. And my father wouldn’t say no to Gen. Powell.
Peter’s claim that his father supported DADT on ‘privacy’ grounds is somewhat significant, since Charles Moskos often shrouded his support for DADT in terms of military effectiveness and military cohesion and used his impressive academic credentials as a “cover” for his religious and moralistic views. (In the same way that FRC still releases ‘studies’ arguing that open gay service would undermine the military to obscure their moralistic agenda.)
In his seminal study of DADT, Nathaniel Frank argues that Moskos’ opposition was — as Peter suggests — actually rooted in a very conservative outlook on culture and morality. “Moskos shared with top military brass a traditional world-view that placed men, and a form of rugged masculinity, in positions of social power,” Frank explains. “For Moskos, the ban on openly gay soldiers was grounded in a similar cultural concern to the one raised by women in combat. Involving the analogy of sex integration, he asserted that the gay ban was necessary to protect ‘modesty rights for straights.” As a sociologist, Moskos felt that “he was simply articulating the truth of national sentiment and linking it to concerns about what impact a radical change in military culture could have on the armed forces.”
That said, Moskos’ concern about privacy is an entirely different issue that hasn’t diminished with the military’s new-found support for repeal. In fact, military leaders still argue that they need more time to figure out where and how to house openly gay troops. Concerns remain — will the partners of gay and lesbian service members be permitted to share on-base housing or can service members in small living quarters request to change their housing situation if they are uncomfortable living with an openly gay service member — but the experiences of our foreign allies (many of whom have lifted the ban against open service and have not had to provide for separate housing or shower accommodations) suggest that the privacy argument is overblown. A small vocal group of soldiers may feel uncomfortable around gays, but most soldiers simply don’t care.
Larry Korb points out in this report, that “today tens of thousands of gay men and women whose sexual orientation is already known to many of their fellow servicemen and women are already serving with no negative effect on military readiness.” As Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee in February, “I have served with homosexuals since 1968… everybody in the military has.”