When congressional Republicans tried in vain to thwart a bill that began the process to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), they were quick to claim they were standing up for the preferences of U.S. military personnel. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) argued that soldiers would be less willing to fight and die “for the guy in the next foxhole” if they knew their fellow soldier was gay. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) ominously suggested that, “If someone has to be overt about their sexuality, whether it’s in a bunker where they’re confined under fire, then it’s a problem.”
Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) was one of the five GOP representatives to vote for the repeal process. When ABC News asked him about his vote, Djou didn’t said that DADT “just simply doesn’t work” because many soldiers “suddenly claim they are gay” to avoid combat while collecting discharge bonuses. In an interview with ThinkProgress on Monday, he still refuted some of the rhetoric of his colleagues and said that based on his experience as a captain in the Army Reserves, servicemembers would readily adapt to a new policy:
TP: A lot of people are saying that some servicemembers may not defend their comrades if they know they’re gay, or that troops may not accept a change of allowing gay members to serve openly. Do you find this to be true based on your experience?
DJOU: No. No. You know, I think, having been in the service, and I understand that the troops have their own viewpoint on things, which might not nececarily be 100% an exactly reflection of what the average American electorate is, but by and large I have found that with the United States military, and service — members of the service who I have served with, when the civilian officials, the President or the Congress, give an order, a directive, it’s followed, and it’s followed to a tee. That’s what you’re expected to do. And if you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be in the service and you shouldn’t be wearing the uniform. It’s as simple as that.
Djou’s comments are bolstered by polling data; in a survey commissioned by The Vet Voice Foundation, 73 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans said they’d support allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly, and 58 percent said they already knew gays and lesbians they were serving alongside. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, around 500 U.S. soldiers are “out” to some of their colleagues and continue to serve “without consequence.”