Don’t ask, tell or legitimize

I am sympathetic to the story told by Joseph Rocha, who claims in a Washington Post opinion column that he was discharged from the Navy because he is gay, though he says he never told anyone. Mr. Rocha says his male colleagues concluded he was gay when he wouldn’t laugh at their dirty jokes about women or visit prostitutes with them.

Gay service members have a point when they claim a double standard exists for heterosexuals and homosexuals regarding sexual behavior. Mr. Rocha also purports cover-ups by higher-ups about male sexual assaults on lesbians and the pressure he says lesbians feel to keep quiet because by “telling” they could face discharge.

But we are beginning in the wrong place. The place to start is whether citizens of this country, through their elected representatives and the military leaders named by them, have a right to determine what type of service members best serve the interests, safety and security of the United States. I contend we do. The military should not be a test lab. Pressure is building to put female sailors on submarines, along with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, presumably. That many heterosexuals find homosexual behavior immoral and not conducive to unit cohesion is of no concern to the social wrecking crew.

What gay activists apparently don’t care about is the effect reshaping the military in their image would have on our ability to fight and defend the country, which, after all, is the purpose of a military. If the armed services were open to all behaviors (as distinct from orientations), recruitment might become more difficult. Some of the services have struggled recently to meet their recruitment goals, though overall enlistment is up because of the economy.

At the Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday in Washington, President Obama said, “I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ” He also pledged to bring an end to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton. Mr. Obama knows - or should know - that he does not have that power. He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.

If Congress wants to repeal DOMA and change the military’s behavioral codes, it can do so through new legislation. But that would put Blue Dog Democrats at risk at re-election time because they serve mostly conservative districts. They know their political careers would be over if they voted in favor of gay marriage or for gays in the military.

The gays-in-the-military and gay-marriage issues are part of a broader attempt by liberals to restructure society. Social activists despise biblical morality (which heterosexuals could use a little more, too), traditional values that have been proved to work when tried and numerous other cultural mores. This is not an opinion. It also is not a secret. The more radical activists have written and spoken openly about their intentions. Mr. Obama’s language (whether action follows is another matter) gives lip service to their cause.

Opinion polls have shown the public shifting in favor of gays in the military, including a recent Gallup poll that found that “Americans are 6 percentage points more likely than they were four years ago to favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military, 69 percent to 63 percent.” That is mostly because there are few leaders who wish to give voice to opposing points of view. They fear being shouted down or accused of homophobia.

We will get more of what we tolerate. Sexual behavior is an important cultural and moral issue. Mr. Obama won the election with just 52 percent of the popular vote and a margin of 7 percent over Sen. John McCain. This should not be seen as a mandate for him and his administration to make over America in a secular and liberal image. Neither should it be seen as an invitation to give blanket approval to homosexuality, considered by some to be against the best interests of the people who practice it as well as the nations that accept it.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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