- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2007

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should not apologize for supporting the law excluding homosexuals from the military. That law, Section 654, Title 10, was passed with veto-proof bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress in 1993. Federal courts have declared it constitutional several times.

Nor should Gen. Pace be intimidated by name-calling homosexual activists who are berating the general for expressing his personal opinions on immorality. A relentless public relations campaign is promoting their cause and a controversial bill, sponsored by Rep. Marty Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, which would repeal the 1993 homosexual conduct law.

The statute reflects the views of people who see the issue in moral terms, but it uses secular language emphasizing military discipline. Duly enacted laws — including prohibitions against lying, stealing and murder — should not be repealed just because they coincide with religious principles and moral codes such as the Ten Commandments.

The personal values of Gen. Pace are not unusual, but two contradictions in his March 12 statement deserve a closer look. Gen. Pace said that “don’t ask, don’t tell” allows homosexual individuals to serve, but that frequently stated misinterpretation lacks support in the law Congress actually approved.

Gen. Pace also equated homosexuality with adultery, a moral offense prohibited under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Using the general’s comment as a teaching moment, consider what would happen if President Clinton had imposed on the military a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on adultery. Such a policy could condone adulterous relationships in the military, as long as the people involved do not say they are adulterers. That would encourage illicit behavior, in the same way the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, imposed by the Clinton administration, condones dishonesty about homosexual conduct.

This is why Congress rejected the “don’t ask, don’t tell” concept in 1993. Instead, members decided to codify pre-Clinton Defense Department regulations stating, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”

Three months after signing the law — apparently with fingers crossed behind his back — Bill Clinton undermined the statute by announcing contradictory enforcement regulations: the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” These regulations state that “sexual orientation” (a vague phrase appearing nowhere in the law) is “personal and private” and “not a bar to military service.”

The contradiction between the law and Mr. Clinton’s enforcement policy created confusion that continues to this day. In 1996 the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations were inconsistent with statutory language stating, “The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.”

Failure to resolve the disparity between policy and law works to the advantage of homosexual activists, because the statute is slandered every time it is mislabeled with the catch phrase “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Chronic confusion helps their high-powered public relations campaign, which frequently cites questionable “studies” and public opinion surveys skewed to promote open homosexuality in the military.

In December 2006, for example, Zogby International released a poll commissioned by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a homosexual activist group now called the Michael D. Palm Center.

The Zogby news release publicized an innocuous question about respondents’ relative “comfort” with homosexuals, but did not mention the key question displayed on the pollster’s Web site: “Do you agree or disagree with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military?”

On that question, 26 percent of respondents agreed, but 37 percent disagreed. The poll also found 32 percent of respondents were “Neutral,” and 5 percent were “Not sure.” The combined 69 percent who were opposed or neutral outnumbered the 26 percent who wanted the law repealed. This was hardly a mandate for radical change. (See related article at https://www.cmrlink.org/HMilitary.asp?DocID=287)

Another PR strategy, shedding crocodile tears about national security, blames the homosexual exclusion law for military personnel shortages. But the often-cited 2005 General Accountability Office report, which provided statistical data on the number of “unprogrammed separations” between 1994 and 2003, did not support that claim.

The Pentagon’s Office of Personnel and Readiness responded to the GAO report by putting discharge numbers into perspective. During the nine years in question, there were 26,446 discharges for pregnancy; 36,513 for violations of weight standards; 38,178 for “serious offenses;” 20,527 for parenthood, and 59,098 for “drug offenses/use.” In contrast, 9,501 persons were discharged when they acknowledged homosexual conduct — about 5 percent of unplanned separations, or 0.37 percent of discharges for all reasons. That number could be reduced to near zero if potential recruits were accurately informed that homosexual men and women are not eligible to serve in the military.

Defense Secretary William Gates should exercise his legally authorized option to reinstate “the question” about homosexuality that used to appear on induction forms. At the very least, President Bush should drop Mr. Clinton’s expendable “don’t ask, don’t tell” regulations, and provide accurate information about the meaning and purpose of the law.

The statute recognizes differences between military and civilian life, and notes that in combat, bonds of personal trust and unit cohesion are essential for mission accomplishment. Such realities justify numerous restrictions on personal behavior that would not be acceptable in civilian life.

Simply stated in gender-neutral terms, the law says that in conditions “characterized by forced intimacy, with little or no privacy,” persons should not have to expose themselves to persons who might be sexually attracted to them. The same principle protects privacy between military men and women, to the greatest extent possible. It encourages good order and discipline by respecting the normal human desire for modesty in sexual matters.

Homosexual activists will not stop pushing their agenda, but the law deserves continued support.

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that concentrates on military personnel issues.

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