- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

An underground gay group in the military wants recruiters to reach out to the gay community in the same way they target blacks, Hispanics and women.

The Pentagon’s ban on openly gays members is due to be lifted Sept. 20, meaning avowed gay people can sign up, those in the ranks can come out of the closet and the military will no longer discharge personnel because of sexual preference.

What is unclear is the number of post-ban policies that might be adopted to meet the demands of gays and ease integration of different sexual identities.

The group OutServe, which claims more than 4,000 gay and lesbian military members worldwide, plans a “coming-out party,” of sorts, in Las Vegas in October.

The group has invited Defense Department officials to attend an OutServe Armed Forces Leadership Conference and expects hundreds of military personnel to attend.

J.D. Smith, an active-duty Air Force officer who founded OutServe, said the military should think of gays when recruiting. “J.D. Smith” is an alias he uses because the ban is still in effect.

“Absolutely, we endorse the DoD advertising recruiting for the gay community, just as they would any other community,” he said in an email exchange with The Washington Times. “The DoD regularly attends public events to recruit, and we believe they should be at Pride events next year around the country to let the gay community know the opportunities to serve their nation.

“The DoD doesn’t need to do a campaign to let the public know they accept gays; they should do it so gays know of the opportunity now open to them.”

Robert Knight, a conservative columnist, said he expects a list of gay-oriented demands for the Pentagon.

“No one should be surprised at what will be an increasingly shrill set of demands to use the military as an endorsing agency for homosexual activism,” said Mr. Knight, who helped draft the federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“The idea that they would be satisfied with a military that is merely indifferent to sexual preference ignores what they’ve done in other institutions, such as corporations, schools and even some church denominations.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said no decision has been made about whether the department will officially attend the OutServe conference.

As to specifically recruiting in the gay community, she said, “The services are always looking for smart, talented young men and women who want to serve, and they determine which recruiting/marketing venues best meet their needs.”

What the gay community would like to gain from the Pentagon may materialize at the four-day Las Vegas conference. The agenda calls for several workshops, dinners, board meetings, group breakout sessions and an open-microphone session.

OutServe is urging attendance from cadets and midshipmen from the academies, active-duty personnel, veterans and federal employees. Conference sponsors include the CIA and Amazon.com.

OutServe says the conference will provide “a means of building professional networks, sharing best practices and formulating strategies that help build a stronger and more inclusive military community.”

The Pentagon has said it will not track the number of gays in the ranks as it does other minority groups, arguing that one’s sexuality is private.

Advocates in the Department of Agriculture have urged the Obama administration to make gay sensitivity training available throughout the federal government, which presumably would include the armed forces. To date, the administration has balked.

“Post-repeal, the armed forces should be reaching out to all qualified Americans, including gays and lesbians, who are prepared and want to serve their country,” said Aubrey Sarvis, director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which pushed to repeal the ban. “There is no right to serve in our military, but all who are qualified and fit should be considered.”

Last week, President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certified to Congress that openly gay members will not disrupt combat readiness. The certification was the last step in the ban’s full repeal after gay sensitivity training for troops was completed worldwide.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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