Attendees of the Tuesday session said that one female Marine stated that bunking with a lesbian would be the same as being told to share a room with a man. A soldier said he didn’t want to wade into the political debate and that he would follow orders. Another service member asked if a gay service member who gets married — now forbidden under law — would receive military family benefits.
At one point, a moderator asked how many troops believed they have served with a gay person. About half the people in the audience raised their hands.
I’ve long argued that the personal opinions of military members — who already serve alongside gay and lesbian soldiers — should not determine the policy. The government ignored the troops’ opposition to racial integration when it allowed blacks to serve alongside white soldiers, allowed women in without regard to military opinion and should now lift the ban despite what some troops may think. As Rep. Susan Davis’ (D-CA) explained, “It’s not usual for us to go to the military and to have necessarily them believe that their personal feelings are going to determine the policy that moves forward,” she said. “They should be surveyed, but they should not be determinative.”
Unfortunately, it’s not clear that the co-chairs of the review — who have promised to survey “a wide variety of individuals both within the Department of Defense and without who will have views on this matter have an opportunity for their voice to be heard” — feel the same way. For example, Gen. Carter Ham, the Commanding General for U.S. Army Europe and the Co-Chairman of the review group, met with the Service Chiefs of Chaplains on Monday to discuss the repeal and later tweeted that their “insights” were “critical to our process“:
GenCarterHam: good first mtg w/ Service Chiefs of Chaplains today. Much to discuss as our review proceeds. Chaplains’ insights critical to our process.
One could certainly say that the Chaplains offer important insight into how the military can go about repealing the ban, but it’s difficult to argue that the opinion of religious leaders is “critical” to repeal. My hunch is they’re not very interested in allowing openly gay members to serve and in the armed forces and wouldn’t be very helpful to changing the policy.