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April 21, 2009

Gays in the Military: A Good Fit

By Walter Barton

Retired flag officers write OpEd for Washington Post supporting ban on gays in military. This article opposes their tired verbage.


On April 15, 2009, the Washington Post ran an OpEd piece by four retired flag officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines which was entitled "Gays and the Military: A Bad Fit"- [Washington Post, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, p. A19]. Though I respect their service to our nation, I see that they are out of touch with society in making their arguments against lifting the ban on gays being able to serve in the military. The article can be located at 

The average age of these authors is over 75 years old. President Truman had signed Executive Order 9981 on 26 July 1948 and segregation in the military services did not officially end until 30 September 1954 [about the average time that these authors would have come on active duty] when the Secretary of Defense announced that the last African-American unit had been abolished. If one reads on that subject, one would find that the same arguments for NOT ending discrimination based on race were being made then as they are today by these four. 

As a retired Naval Officer who was commissioned from the Naval Academy in 1971, I would argue that there is no reason that a gay person should not be allowed to serve his country as a member of the armed forces. The argument that close, confined quarters and unit cohesion are good reasons to maintain the ban is misguiding at best. There are codes of conduct that will manage any incidents from either side of sexuality issue. The use of the buzz words like "high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion" are tired old phrases for the defunct thought process of gays in the military being an unacceptable risk to the armed forces.  

The "group" of retired officers argued that there would be no need to study the removal of the ban. With this I agree, for the time for study is over. Study after study has resulted in the same information that there is no compelling reason for gays not to serve openly in the military. This "group" wanted to disregard other countries which have successfully integrated their armed forces with their gay population as being something less than the U.S. It is true that the U.S. does have the best armed forces in the world but it is not because of the ban on gay service men and women as they would have you believe. 

It is time for change and time for the Congress to make those changes in the law, Section 654 of U.S. Code Title 10, which supports the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Though Don't Ask, Don't Tell was, at the time, at least a step forward in allowing gays to serve their country in the armed forces, it was just a baby step that is long overdue to be replaced by eliminating the discrimination that exists.

Authors Bio:
After 26 years retiring from the Navy, then another 14 years as a psychotherapist retiring again, I have finally found time to be more active.