Jason Zengerle’s understandably disappointed that Barack Obama didn’t offer a simple “no” to the question of whether or not he agrees with General Pace that homosexuality is immoral. I will just say that for all the pouncing on Pace this past week, it’sworth noting that I think the real liberal point here is that the joint chiefs’ views of the morality or immorality of particular sexual practices are really neither here nor there as far as legal discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers are concerned. Presumably we have among the ranks of our generals some serious Catholics who think the use of contraceptives is immoral. I’m certain the officers’ corps includes many people who think abortions are immoral. No doubt you also have conservative-minded officers of many faiths who think all premarital sex is immoral.

Obviously, though, we’re not going to purge all the people who do those things out of the military. Which is what liberalism is all about — not a quest to achieve a moral consensus on all things and then have it universally applied, but a quest for fair terms of social cooperation that don’t require universal moral consensus. The military of a diverse society is bound to include disagreements about what is and is not immoral, so beliefs about the morality of particular sexual practices per se can’t be the basis of our policy. The issue at hand is whether there’s any real reason to believe the prohibition on openly gay and lesbian soldiers is necessary to maintain military effectiveness and all the evidence suggests that it isn’t.