At the recent Republican presidential debate where a gay soldier was booed, Rick Santorum expressed his support for reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by suggesting there should be “no sexual activity” in the military. On this morning’s Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace challenged Santorum on this response, pointing out that lifting DADT has to do with troops serving openly, not their sexual activity. Wallace also pointed out that the rhetoric Santorum uses is exactly the same as was used in 1941 to oppose racial integration of the military. Nevertheless, Santorum not only doubled down on his opposition to open service for gay troops for the sake of “recruitment and retention,” but stated his beliefs that being gay is a choice, that it’s only defined by sexual behavior, and that “plenty” of people have changed their orientation through ex-gay therapy:
SANTORUM: We’re talking about people who are simply different because of the color of their skin, not because of activities that would cause problems for people living in those close quarters. [...] I know the whole gay community is trying to make this the new civil rights act. It’s not. It’s not the same. You are black by the color of your skin. You are not homosexual, necessarily — obviously, by the color of your skin. [...] The idea that being black and being gay is the same is simply not true. There are all sorts of studies out there that suggest just the contrary, and there are people who were gay and lived the gay lifestyle and aren’t anymore. I don’t think that’s the case with anyone who’s black.
Santorum is wrong on so many counts:
- The extensive Pentagon study found that servicemembers don’t care about serving next to gay soldiers, so unit cohesion would not be impacted.
- Sexual orientation is not defined by behaviors, but as an enduring biological identity that cannot be changed.
- Attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective and cause harm, and even studies by proponents of ex-gay therapy have shown it doesn’t work.
Santorum’s comments make clear that his only concern is keeping homophobic soldiers fleeing the military, because “they’re in close quarters, they live with people, they obviously shower with people.” Perhaps Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) offered the best response to this narrow line of thinking when he said, “Of course people shower with homosexuals. What a silly issue.”