WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist public policy specialist Richard Land called on congressional members Feb. 2 to oppose legislation that would overturn the ban on open homosexuals serving in the United States military.
Writing to 79 selected members of the House of Representatives, Land told them the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) strongly opposes the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. Land is the ERLC’s president.
Land’s letter was sent the same day the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen told a Senate committee they support President Obama’s intention to repeal what is known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Enactment of the bill would harm troop morale and potentially result in a significant loss of service members, Land told the House members.
“The military is a place where individuals are often required to be in intimate contact with each other for extended periods of time,” Land said. “The admission of openly homosexual individuals into the military would engender sexual tension and thereby negatively impact troop morale, until cohesion, and order.”
Land said conversations with many members of the military cause him to be concerned a reversal of the law “will result in the resignation of large numbers of personnel who are currently serving in our all-volunteer services, and that it will be extremely difficult to recruit their replacements.”
Obama declared during the Jan. 27 State of the Union address he would work this year “with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee the Pentagon is working toward implementation of such a repeal but acknowledged reversal of the ban is up to Congress.
The 1993 law enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Clinton prevents homosexuals from serving openly. The policy also prohibits the military from asking recruits on the front end if they are homosexual.
The proposed legislation, H.R. 1283, would bar discrimination by the armed services based on the “sexual orientation” of a member of the military or anyone seeking to become a member. The measure also would allow re-entry into the military of people who have been dismissed because of “homosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexual conduct.”
A Military Times survey of subscribers released in December 2008 found that 58 percent of active military personnel oppose repealing the current policy. Additionally, if the policy is overturned, nearly 10 percent said, “I would not re-enlist or extend my service,” while another 14 percent said, “I would consider not re-enlisting or extending my service.” A 2006 Zogby poll found only 26 percent of military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan supported overturning the current policy.
The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D.-Calif., has 187 co-sponsors.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Michael Foust, Baptist Press assistant editor, contributed to this article.