Allowing Gays in the Military Would Be Unfair and Hurt Troop Morale

Law protects soldiers and has withstood court challenges. Obama owes it to his troops to leave it be.

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On the issue of gays in the military, President Obama should reconsider his campaign promises. Now that he is commander in chief, Obama needs to build a bond of trust—what military experts call "vertical cohesion"—with the troops he leads. In that capacity, the president should disregard the demands of gay activists who want him to suspend enforcement of Section 654, Title 10, U.S.C., the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. That law, often confused with Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" administrative policy, clearly states that gays are not eligible to serve in uniform. The law enjoys widespread support, especially in the military, and federal courts have upheld it as constitutional several times.

In May, the Michael D. Palm Center, a University of California-Santa Barbara think tank, issued a report recommending that Obama sign an executive order suspending enforcement of the 1993 statute. The Palm Center polemic cites the rarely used authority underlying presidential "stop-loss" orders sometimes issued to keep troops in the field beyond their tours during a military or national emergency. The contrived premise is legally absurd, but if Obama buys it and unilaterally stops enforcement of the law, keeping gays in the military, the troop would perceive that action as an evasion of his oath to "faithfully execute the office of the president of the United States."

Presidents do not get to pick and choose which laws to enforce and which to ignore. A politically expedient presidential executive order effectively nullifying the 1993 law would disrespect Congress and constitute a serious, perhaps irreparable breach of faith with men and women who volunteer to serve. That would be only the beginning of major problems if Obama signs legislation to impose the gay agenda on the military. The open-ended bill reintroduced in this Congress (H.R. 1283) would forbid discrimination based on "homosexuality or bisexuality, whether the orientation is real or perceived."

The new "nondiscrimination" law would affect all military branches and communities, including Army and Marine infantry, special operations, Navy SEALs, and submarines. Unlike workers who return home at night, military personnel must accept living conditions that involve "forced intimacy," with little or no privacy. This would be tantamount to forcing female soldiers to share private quarters with men—a situation that would be unacceptable to the majority of military women even if misconduct never occurred. Stated in gender-neutral terms, the new law would require military persons to accept exposure to persons who may be sexually attracted to them.

Mandatory diversity training programs—designed by experts whose credentials in gender studies and gay culture say nothing about common sense—would attempt to overcome the normal, human desire for modesty and privacy in sexual matters. This quest would be inappropriate for the military and unlikely to succeed.

A corollary policy would enforce "zero tolerance" of dissent. This means that service members who want to report inappropriate actions could face questions about their own attitudes toward "sexual minorities." Many will not file complaints, even in cases of assault or abuse of rank, because of fear of career repercussions. Commanders who take sides in emotionally charged disputes also could be accused of a "failure of leadership" or "intolerance" that violates the zero tolerance policy.

The Palm Center effectively confirmed these consequences in its May report, "How to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' " A section of the 29-page document, billed as a road map for gay equality, recommends that "the Defense Department should work to identify the most potent 'carrots' and 'sticks' for implementing the new policy."

Career "carrots" would reward commanders who embrace the new law while downplaying problems. "Sticks," or "strong sanctions for noncompliance," would deny promotions and end the careers of anyone who disagrees, including chaplains who leave as a matter of conscience. These involuntary losses of good people would compound the harmful effects of shortages caused when others decline re-enlistment or avoid service in the first place.