Working group: No separate facilities for gay and straight troops
ARLINGTON, Va. — Should ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal become a reality, the message that the Pentagon’s working group sent to straight troops Tuesday was clear: Deal with it.
The working group concluded that integrating openly gay troops into the military would best be achieved with complete immersion, rather than hindered by separate rules or facilities. And straight troops who oppose the decision, with very rare exceptions, should not be granted special accommodations.
“Besides being logistically impractical, ‘separate but equal’ facilities would wrongly isolate and stigmatize some servicemembers,” the Pentagon’s working group concluded in its report on implementing a repeal.
But the group also said commanders should be allowed to handle individual objections — such as requests for separate sleeping arrangements or shower times — on a case-by-case basis, as they do with any issues between troops at small-unit levels.
Overshadowed in the Pentagon survey that found most troops would have no problem serving alongside openly gay servicemembers are significant numbers who don’t want to bunk or shower with gay troops, who would move off base rather than live next door to them, and who would leave the military rather than re-enlist in a gay-friendly service.
The DOD’s survey found nearly 45 percent of servicemembers would want an alternative to open-bay showering with gays. Nearly 30 percent said they would want separate living quarters.
And 35 percent said they would feel uncomfortable or would move off the base completely, rather than living next door to a same-sex couple.
Nearly one in four troops said they would leave or think about leaving the military sooner than planned, should gays be allowed to serve openly.
“It is certainly likely that some servicemembers will come to the position that says ‘I cannot abide by this,’” Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Army Europe and co-chair of the working group, said Tuesday.
But, he added, simply being opposed to openly gay servicemembers should not make anyone eligible for early separation from the armed forces.
Ham and his co-chair, Pentagon chief counsel Jeh Johnson, said they recognized that many in the military oppose homosexuality based on religious beliefs.
“Our recommendations do not require that a chaplain or anybody else in the military change their personal religious beliefs or their moral beliefs,” Johnson said in a CNN interview Wednesday.
Current and former gay servicemembers reject the idea of separating troops based on sexual orientation, and insist fears will prove overblown once straight troops find that more of their battle buddies are gay.
“I don’t think there will be anyone requesting to move away or requesting separate facilities,” said one openly gay active-duty officer and co-leader of the advocacy group OutServe, who goes by the pseudonym ‘JD Smith’ to protect his identity. “And I don’t think that it should be allowed to happen. Allowing separate treatment would be a breakdown of leadership.”
“I don’t expect a company commander to have in one set of barracks the ‘gay’ floor and the ‘not gay’ floor,” added OutServe spokesman and former Army captain Jonathan Hopkins, who was outed and honorably discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in August after receiving three bronze stars during three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Ultimately he’s sowing division in his unit, not eliminating it.”
Ham and Johnson acknowledged that troops also raised concerns about violent attacks on gay and lesbian troops. But Ham said he didn’t expect anti-gay violence would exceed levels the military is already accustomed to addressing.
“The United States armed forces are a disciplined force,” Ham said. “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad apples occasionally who engage in misconduct, and we do have assaults and what have you. But we know how to deal with that.”