(CNSNews.com) - A special Defense Department working group appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates has recommended that the military should “expressly prohibit” heterosexuals from using separate showers, bathrooms and bunking facilities from homosexuals when the repeal of the law banning homosexuals from the military goes into effect.
The working group also has recommended that commanding officers be left with the authority to exempt individuals from using the same showers, bathrooms and living facilities as homosexuals, but only on a “case-by-case” basis.
The House voted earlier this week and the Senate voted this afternoon to repeal the military ban on homosexuals, which has often been referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The working group’s Nov. 30 report—“Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’”--concluded that permitting heterosexuals to use separate showers, bathrooms and bunking facilities from homosexuals of the same gender would “stigmatize” homosexuals and be “reminiscent of ‘separate but equal’ facilities for blacks prior to the 1960s.” The working group was co-chaired by Jeh Charles Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, and U.S. Army Gen. Carter F. Ham.
“In the course of our review we heard from a very large number of Service members about their discomfort with sharing bathroom facilities or living quarters with those they know to be gay or lesbian,” said the report. “Some went so far to suggest that a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell may even require separate bathroom and shower facilities for gay men and lesbians. We disagree, and recommend against separate facilities. Though many regard the very discussion of this topic as offensive, given the number of Service members who raised it, we are obliged to address it.”
The working group said that having homosexuals use different bathrooms and living facilities from heterosexuals would not only create a “logistical nightmare” but would be discriminatory.
“The creation of a third and possibly fourth category of bathroom facilities and living quarters, whether at bases or forward deployed areas, would be a logistical nightmare, expensive, and impossible to administer,” said the report.
“And, even if it could be achieved and administered, separate facilities would, in our view, stigmatize gay and lesbian Service members in a manner reminiscent of ‘separate but equal' facilities for blacks prior to the 1960s,” said the report.
“Accordingly,” the report concluded, “we recommend that the Department of Defense expressly prohibit berthing or billeting assignments or the designation of bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation. At the same time, commanders would retain the authority they currently have to alter berthing or billeting assignments or accommodate privacy concerns on an individualized, case-by-case basis, in the interests of morale, good order and discipline, and consistent with performance of mission. It should also be recognized that commanders already have the tools—from counseling, to non-judicial punishment, to UCMJ prosecution—to deal with misbehavior in either living quarters or showers, whether the person who engages in the misconduct is gay or straight.”
The report also said a survey of more than 115,000 active duty service members indicated only 29.4 percent would “take no action” if they were assigned to share an “open bay shower” with a homosexual.
The other 70 percent of service members answered this way when asked what they would do if assigned to an “open bay shower” with someone they believed to be a homosexual: 25.8 percent said they would use the shower at a different time than the homosexual, 17.7 percent said they would talk to a superior to see if they had a different option, 11.1 percent said they would have a discussion with the other person to see how they would handle the situation, 7.9 percent said they did not know how they would handle the situation, 7.0 percent said they would do “something else,” and 1.3 percent said they would talk to a chaplain, mentor or leader about how to deal with it.
The report acknowledged that in focus groups conducted for the working group “a frequent concern expressed by some Service members was personal privacy in settings where they may be partially or fully unclothed in the presence of another Service member they know to be gay or lesbian—for instance, shared showering facilities or locker rooms.”
However, the report concluded that the concerns that heterosexual service members in this regard were based on “stereotypes” about homosexuals and stated that homosexuals have “learned to avoid making heterosexuals feel uncomfortable or threatened in situation [sic] such as this.”
The report argued that heterosexuals and homosexuals shower together “every day” in college and high school gyms and “in professional sports locker rooms” and that it should be no different in the military.
“Here again, we are convinced that separate bathroom facilities would do more harm than good to unit cohesion and would be impracticable to administer and enforce,” said the report. “Concerns about showers and bathrooms are based on a stereotype—that gay men and lesbians will behave in an inappropriate or predatory manner in these situations. As one gay former Service member told us, to fit in, co-exist, and conform to social norms, gay men have learned to avoid making heterosexuals feel uncomfortable or threatened in situation [sic] such as this. The reality is that people of different sexual orientation use shower and bathroom facilities together every day in hundreds of thousands of college dorms, college and high school gyms, professional sports locker rooms, police and fire stations, and athletic clubs.”
The report quoted the adverse sentiments of a number of service members who participated in focus groups where they indicated they did not want to have to shower, use the bathroom or roommate with homosexuals.
“I live in the barracks and I don’t think that it would go over well in that kind of environment,” one service member told a DOD focus group. “I’m concerned about how people would treat that individual.”
“In the privacy side of the thing, they’ll have to make some changes to the current infrastructure, [for example] privacy stalls in the bathrooms,” said another service member.
“I do not have to shower or sleep in a room with men so I do not want to shower or sleep in the same room as a woman who is homosexual,” said a female service member. “I would feel uncomfortable changing and sleeping as I would if it was a man in the room. I should not have to accept this.”
“Tell him if he hits on me I will kick his - - -!” said another service member who participated in a DOD focus group.