(CNSNews.com) - A letter signed by 1,050 retired military officers, including 47 four-star leaders, requests that a 1993 law banning homosexuals from serving in the U.S. armed services be retained. The letter was delivered to President Barack Obama and Congress last week.
The 1993 law, which passed with bipartisan support and has been upheld as constitutional by federal courts, specifically excludes homosexuals from serving in the military and is frequently mislabeled or mis-reported as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” an enforcement regulation put in place by President Bill Clinton after the law passed.
The March 31 letter to Obama and Congress was sent in response to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives on March 3 that would repeal the 1993 law (Section 654, Title 10, U.S.C.).
In the letter, the officers state that the law against homosexuals serving in the military should be retained on grounds of “national security” and that allowing homosexuals to serve would disrupt the military’s efficiency, and could impair its ability to recruit and retain the manpower necessary for the global war on terror.
“Our past experience as military leaders leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal [of the law] on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness,” states the letter. “We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, [and] have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
“As a matter of national security, we urge you to support the 1993 law regarding homosexuals in the military, and to oppose any legislative, judicial, or administrative effort to repeal or invalidate the law,” the letter concludes.
A representative of the Palm Center at the University of California, however, told CNSNews.com that the military would not experience the adverse effects outlined in the letter, and suggested that the officers’ beliefs are based on their disdain for homosexuality rather than concern for sound military personnel policy.
Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a liberal think tank that studies issues involving gays and the military, told CNSNews.com that while he is not surprised that many former and current officers oppose integrating homosexuals into the military, he thinks their position is based on sentiment rather than evidence.
“It's not news that thousands of people in the military and with former military service don’t want gays to serve,” Frank told CNSNews.com. “This had been the case for two or three centuries. But this is a letter prepared by a social conservative group with language they have been using for years, expressing their moral animus against homosexuality."
The letter was released by a group called the Flag & General Officers for the Military, which received "administrative support" from the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative organization that focuses on military personnel issues, and that has long opposed lifting the law that bans homosexuals from serving in the military.
The legislation (HR 1283) of March 3--the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009--was introduced by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). It states that its purpose is “To amend title 10, United States Code, to enhance the readiness of the Armed Forces by replacing the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, referred to as ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’ with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
In addition to Tauscher’s bill, Obama’s view on the issue was posted on his Web site during the presidential campaign on June 6, 2008. It reads: “Let’s repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and demonstrate that the most effective and professional military in the world is open to all Americans who are ready and willing to serve our country.”
“We are ready to accomplish these goals because of the courage and persistence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have been working every day to achieve equal rights,” the campaign Web site said.
More recently, on Jan. 7, in a video posted on the Web site of Obama’s transition team, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also indicated that the president would try to get rid of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regulation.
But that regulation is not the same as the 1993 law. To legally allow homosexuals to serve in the military, Congress will have to repeal that law, which Tauscher’s bill is designed to do, albeit it also erroneously refers to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told CNSNews.com that those who disagree with the letter sent by the officers demonstrate their ignorance of the way the military actually works.
“Advocates of repealing the law who try to ignore the body of experience these officers bring to the debate shows that they do not understand the military or the culture of the military that encourages discipline rather than indiscipline,” said Donnelly.
“If the law is repealed, the consequences could be severe and the costs could be crippling,” said Donnelly.
But Frank said he has not seen evidence that would indicate the armed services would be crippled if homosexuals were allowed to join.
“Those arguments have been the bogeymen of the debate for 10 years now,” said Frank. “There has never been any reason at all to believe there is a link between open gay service and an impairment of the military -- including recruitment, retention, morally, or in cohesion.”
Gen. Peter Pace, a retired four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush, said that he opposed homosexuals serving in the military, telling the Chicago Tribune in 2007: “I believe homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.”
The list of 1,050 generals and admirals who signed the letter sent to President Obama can be viewed here.