WASHINGTON (BP)–The chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff has defended the Pentagon’s ban on homosexuals in the military by saying same-sex acts are “immoral” and similar to adultery.
While many Americans would agree with that assessment by Gen. Peter Pace, representatives of homosexual activist organizations decried it and called for an apology.
Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist defended the policy following Pace’s comments.
In responding to a question about what is known as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Pace told a group of editors and reporters with the Chicago Tribune in a March 12 meeting, “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.
“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy,” he said, “just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior.”
Pace said his perspective was based on an “upbringing” in which he learned some types of behavior are immoral, the Tribune reported.
The general issued a written statement March 13, saying in his comments to the Tribune he “should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views.” Pace declined to apologize, however, for his comments during what he, and the Tribune, described as a “wide-ranging” interview.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a homosexual activist organization that seeks to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, described Pace’s original comments as “outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful” to homosexuals in the military and demanded an immediate apology.
“As a Marine and a military leader, General Pace knows that prejudice should not dictate policy,” said C. Dixon Osburn, SLDN’s executive director, in a written release. “It is inappropriate for the chairman to condemn those who serve our country because of his own personal bias.”
The “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” which became law in 1993, prohibits military commanders from asking service members if they are homosexual. It also protects members from being required to reveal their “sexual orientation.” Members of the armed forces may be discharged, however, if they reveal they are homosexual or bisexual, or if they make comments demonstrating they are inclined to participate in same-sex acts.
At the time “don’t ask, don’t tell” was instituted, the rationale normally provided for the policy was the maintenance of cohesion and morale among troops, not the immorality of homosexuality.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the policy “seems to have worked fairly well” and pointed out Pace and the others who run the military are “virtually unanimous” in their support of it.
“Why ignore the professionals in favor of amateurs and armchair generals who have no idea what they are talking about and who are more concerned about promoting a ‘gay rights’ agenda than they are in keeping our nation’s military the world’s best?” Land said.
In 2005, the Government Accountability Office reported nearly 9,500 service members had been removed during a 10-year period under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Among those dismissed were 322 members who had foreign language skills the Pentagon “considered to be especially important,” according to the study. The report, performed in response to a request from a member or members of Congress, covered 1994 through 2003.
Some critics of “don’t task, don’t tell” have said the policy should be rescinded to solve projected personnel shortages during a time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Such arguments are silly and nonsensical,” Land said in a written statement for Baptist Press. “If ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ were to be jettisoned, you would have a larger number of homosexuals and lesbians volunteering to serve, but at what cost?
“For every additional ‘gay’ person induced to serve … how many potential soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen would be less likely to enlist (from the more than 90 percent of the population which is not ‘gay’)?” Land asked. “Additionally, how many current military personnel would resign from the service in protest because they too believe homosexual behavior is immoral and would not choose to be in close unit contact with such behavior?”
Rep. Marty Meehan, D.-Mass., introduced March 2 a bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The legislation, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), would replace the current policy with one that says the Pentagon “may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” Meehan’s bill has 122 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.