The Army Continues Its Bigotry: No Protections if Gays Disclose Status In Interviews with Senior Military Officials about DADT Policy


danchoi3.jpgJust when things seemed to be lightening up regarding homosexual men and women serving their nation and saluting their Commander-in-Chief honestly and openly, the Army walks back toward the nation’s institutionalized bigotry.
Apparently Army Secretary John McHugh showed a bit too much enthusiasm for the changes President Obama says he wants to enact with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and had to issue the statement below about which I am sure he feels some angst.
In short, McHugh makes clear in the statement below that gay men and women will still be discharged and that in the process of soliciting the “views” of people in the military that personal disclosures of homosexual status will not be protected and can result in discharge.
Unbelievable — Everyone solicited by Gates & Co. about this significant personnel policy change will have to continue to lie.
For those interested in this subject, I wrote this piece after the Human Rights Campaign hosted President Barack Obama at its annual gala dinner. A friend wanted to attend the dinner in military uniform, and I felt very conflicted warning him that such a gesture could result in his potentially being discharged.
Here is Army Secretary John McHugh’s statement:

Statement by Army Secretary John McHugh
“Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, I made several statements that require further comment.
“First, while President Obama has asked Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, it is and remains the law of the land. As I have testified before Congress and Secretary Gates has made clear, the Department of the Defense will continue to apply the law, as we are obligated to do.
“Second, I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one. Further, the recent changes to implementing regulations authorized by Secretary Gates, which I support, apply the law in a fairer and more appropriate manner; they do not in any way create a moratorium of the law.
“Third, with regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law. Because of the informal and random manner in which these engagements occurred, I am unable to identify these soldiers and I am not in a position to formally pursue the matter.
“Secretary Gates has committed to soliciting the views of men and women in uniform across the military, including those who are gay and lesbian, within the parameters of the review process he has established. The intra-department, intra-service working group, lead by Jeh Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense, and Gen. Carter Ham, commander, U.S. Army Europe, is working to determine the most effective and most comprehensive way to do this. The working group is likely to utilize a third party from outside of the department to solicit these views so soldiers can speak candidly and without fear of separation. I urge every soldier to share his or her views and suggestions on this important issue through this channel. This is the appropriate way to do so.
I strongly support the deliberative process that Secretary Gates has established to review this important issue. Until Congress repeals “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, it remains the law of the land and the Department of the Army and I will fulfill our obligation to uphold it.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “The Army Continues Its Bigotry: No Protections if Gays Disclose Status In Interviews with Senior Military Officials about DADT Policy

  1. David says:

    It is time for a goddamned Harry Truman moment, for chrissakes.


  2. WigWag says:

    I am very glad that Steve did this post; it would be nice to think that the Obama Administration could be shamed into doing the right thing; unfortunately everything the President has done to support the right of gay Americans to serve in the military he has been brought to kicking and screaming.
    I think it’s highly doubtful that the President is under any obligation to follow the law Congress passed on this subject. For decades, presidents, pursuing their powers under Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution have felt free to commit the nation’s armed forces to conflicts without the passage of a declaration of war by Congress (the Constitution be damned). In light of this, it hardly seems plausible that Congress can determine the circumstances under which service people must be discharged.
    The good news is that the arc of history does seem to be moving in a more positive direction. A quarter century ago, even the idea of domestic partnerships seemed far-fetched; now more than one state permits gay marriage. A quarter century ago, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the best we could get; now it’s clear that many senior military officers are confident that gay people can serve with distinction.
    With more patience and more agitation (like Steve is doing with this post); things will surely continue to improve.
    This whole debate reminds me of the situation for gay people in Great Britain near the turn of the 20th century.
    In 1895 Oscar Wilde, was imprisoned for “the love that dare not speak its name.” When asked by the Crown’s attorney just what that phrase meant, this is how Wilde responded,
    “The love that dare not speak its name in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”
    Wilde was sentenced to two years “hard labor” in Wandsworth prison; the warden, who found Wilde’s crime particularly obnoxious, placed him in a cold, drafty cell and cut back on his rations, that were meager to begin with. While attending the prison chapel (which he was forced to do against his will) Wilde collapsed, bursting his eardrum. Wilde’s health never returned and within three years of his release, this gentle and brilliant man died at the age of 46. It is no exaggeration to say that he was murdered by the British Government for the “crime” of being homosexual.
    But things in England got better. Just 15 years later, the celebrated economist John Maynard Keynes was able to openly admit that he was homosexual; his well known lovers included Duncan Grant and Lytton Strachey and many others. Kenyes actually kept a diary of his sexual conquests.
    During World War I, two of Great Britain’s most well-regarded poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, had a well-known love affair; both poets, who served in the trenches on the Western front, were widely celebrated after the War (unfortunately Owen was killed one week to the hour before the armistice was declared in Ors in Northern France).
    Also during World War I, one of Great Britain’s most respected psychologists who pioneered the treatment of shell-shock (which at the time was a new phenomenon), William R. H. Rivers, was well known to be gay. Despite his sexual orientation, Rivers was highly respected by the British military establishment for the magnificent care that he gave to returning British infantrymen.
    Of course, perhaps the most famously gay member of the British military was T.E. Lawrence himself. Although Lawrence never admitted his homosexuality, he famously began his magnum opus “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” with this poem to his teenage Syrian lover, Selim Ahmed who had died several years earlier of typhus before reaching the age of 20.
    I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars
    To gain you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house, that your eyes might be shining for me
    When I came
    Death was my servant on the road, till we came near and saw you waiting:
    When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me and took you apart:
    Into his quietness
    So our love’s earnings was your cast off body to be held one moment
    Before earth’s soft hands would explore your face and the blind worms transmute
    Your failing substance.
    Men prayed me to set my work, the inviolate house
    in memory of you.
    But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now the little things creep out to patch themselves hovels in the marred shadow
    Of your gift.
    Have you ever read anything sadder?


  3. PrahaPartizan says:

    As a straight, middle-aged man, I find the asymmetry in the way DA/DT is implemented unpardonable and unacceptable, no matter what the merits of the policy. From what I can see, too often we hear of members of the military who DON’T TELL who get booted from the service because someone in authority violated the requirement that they DON’T ASK without penalty. If the member of the military is subject to discharge because of violation of the law, why aren’t the command officers pushing these individuals out also censured, stripped of rank and discharged less than honorably when they’ve violated the law? Dammit, the individuals violating the law remain in the service and often get promoted. The law needs to be administered even-handedly. That isn’t happening now, from my perspective. Perhaps if we had several high-ranking officers getting drummed out of the service, we would see fewer abuses of DA/DT even if it’s never overturned.


  4. Roci says:

    The President can and should use his Authority as Commander-in-Chief at once. All this time, energy and money, as well as talented, committed people being wasted, along with expensive tax-payer subsidized training is an insult to common sense, common justice, and the common defense. President Truman desegregated the military by Executive Order. Yes, some military personnel resisted. Many quit the armed forces rather then serve with dedicated people of color. It is high time the President of the United States started acting like one. Stop asking the Armed Forces and the Congress, and start telling them. Remove this phony issue of gays and lesbians once and for ever. The earth will not split open, nor will the military vanish in fire. The entire issue is a tragic waste that weakens our nation and tarnishes the supposed American ideal of equality.


  5. Carroll says:

    Well, this is becoming ridiculous.
    Being gay is not “a legitimate reason” for being ‘discharged’ from the military. It’s discrimination.
    IMO, I see no reason to have any policy of “ask” or “tell” or “not tell”. Just say that discharging gays from the military if they chose to identify themselves as gay is discrimination and not grounds for being discharged or otherwise discriminated against in the armed services.
    It should be that simple.


  6. Don Bacon says:

    Obama’s foot-dragging aside, Army Secretary McHugh was ‘way out of line.
    SecDef Gates was very specific in his statement of changes to DADT announced on March 25. He said:
    1. We will raise the level of the office of officer who is authorized to separate an enlisted member to a general or flag officer in the service member


  7. Renee Thomas says:

    Army Secretary John McHugh’s statement, while unfortunate, should not be seen as unexpected. While this odious law stands, both he and Secretary Gates are bound by it’s strictures to enforce it. Nevertheless, one might read between the lines to ascertain SA McHugh’s opinion of the law and his responsibilities under it in his remarks concerning the three service members who spoke with him “informally” about its implementation.
    It seems to me the mechanism of a third party outside DOD to elicit the broadest and most honest range of views on open service is a commonsense approach to the law as it currently stands. For the record, I continue (as a member of the Board of Directors of Phoenix Pride) to aggressively and publically advocate for the repeal of DADT. I have voiced my opposition to DADT directly to President Obama. I, like most of you reading this, believe that this law is unjust and damaging to the national security of this nation at a time when we can scarcely afford a weakness of any kind.
    While I have respect for any of our fellow citizens who answer our nation’s call, my special respect shall always be reserved for the gay men and women to choose to serve and protect this nation despite the daunting and unreasonable price that it currently asks of them. They are to the man and woman – heroes all.
    ” . . . Why do you like them so much?”
    “Because they stand upon a wall and say, Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”
    -A Few Good Men


  8. P.S. Mueller says:

    As a straight middle-aged male, with many gay friends, I am
    impatient to get through all this and on with the business working
    together to try and save this raggedy country from itself.
    Time is wasting. Mr. Obama should issue an executive order and
    the generals should abide. Period.


  9. questions says:

    Obama has often cited Reagan’s transformative effect on American political discourse and practice as the model he wants to follow.
    What did Reagan transform? He made government bad, he demonized people with AIDS (or ignored them and then helped with the demonization), he demonized welfare (and ushered in Clinton’s reforms), he made “deficit” a bad word (as if no one ever borrows money to buy a house, an education, a car, or a washing machine).
    And somehow, we took it all in hook, line and sinker and we shuffled far to the right for a very very long period.
    Centrism was right wing (see Clinton). Right wing was loony (see Bush II).
    So here’s this new guy, Obama, who wants to transform our rhetoric all over again. To what? Government can succeed, and given how lack of government failed us, government damned well better succeed; there are lots of ways to live in the world and we need to make space for all of them (gay rights, disability rights, women’s rights…); the tax structure is diseased; foreign policy is uncooperative and unilateral and therefore unhelpful. Oh, and our health care system, educational system, consumer protection system, financial system, banking system, and everything else are all screwed up and have to be reconstructed under a new paradigm.
    Each of these tugs on discourse and action threatens the “space” of some group or other that has come to define itself against the group demanding new space. Each of these tugs moves money and resources. Each of these tugs is going to be fought tooth and nail by the VRWSM, by conservative panic, by misinformation, by ignorance.
    It’s a long slow slog into a more just world. Bending the curve, redirecting the arc of history… these are very long term images that capture the very long term project of making a more perfect union. We’re not there yet, and because Obama wants us to listen to “our better angels” rather than the devils of selfishness screaming in the other ear, he’s going to have a much tougher time of it all than Reagan ever had.
    Moving people right is easy. You terrorize them. Moving them left is hard. You have to inspire them and make them feel love for fellow creatures.
    Note well that Glenn Beck actually recommended that people go to their church websites and if they see the phrase “social justice” there, they should leave the church. LEAVE A CHURCH if it advocates social justice. THAT’S where we are right now, and that’s what Obama has to deal with.
    If he manages to move the country a millimeter in the face of this nonsense, I will be impressed.


  10. Linda says:

    This issue is just one more example of characteristics of the Obama Presidency that the public and pundits are still trying to define and understand. Pragmatic? Maybe. Politically correct? Kinda. Predictable? Never. Indeed everyone from Fox News to the Daily Show, now can find clips of Obama saying one thing and then another and yet another on every issue–or so it seemns right now.
    On this and many other key issues, I see four C’s–convolutions, contortions, complications—and thus ultimately confusion. Usually when one looks at any issue, there are fewer people at both far ends of the political spectrum. So Presidents may triangulate to the center. So now I’m thinking and puzzled, i.e., is it possible for an Administration or a Presidency to be so in the center that it is all alone there?
    I guess time will tell.


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