An Intolerant Minority

Capt. Joan Darrah (USN-ret.) was the Navy’s first female intelligence officer.

Lt. Col. William Winnewisser (USA-ret.) was a battalion commander, executive officer of the Army Operations Center at the Pentagon, and a White House social aide.

Lt. Col. Hank Thomas (USMC-ret.) was an infantry and intelligence officer who served two tours of duty in Vietnam; he later served as assistant secretary for international affairs in the Reagan administration.

Lt. Col. Steve Loomis, wounded in action in Vietnam, was awarded the Bronze Star with a “V” for valor.

Capt. Joe Lopez, a West Point graduate, and Blackhawk pilot, earned an Air Medal in Iraq.

Capt. Rebecca Kanis, a West Point graduate, was a company commander in Special Operations at the time she resigned her commission after nine years of service.

Capt. Phil Adams, a Naval Academy graduate, spent eight years as a Marine infantry officer.

1 Lt. Gina Foringer, during her four years of service, was a convoy commander in Somalia when she was wounded in action.

SSgt. Eric Alva, who lost a leg in Iraq, served 13 years in the Marines before receiving a medical discharge.

Each of them has a stack of medals and commendations; each of them is gay or lesbian. And every one of them is immoral, according the Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military “says that we, by policy, would be condoning what I believe is immoral activity,” Gen. Pace told the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. When Pace’s comments went public, he was forced to issue a written statement, but never apologized for his opinion about gays: “In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct. I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views.”

That policy is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” established in 1993 during Bill Clinton’s first term as president, and later enhanced to include “don’t pursue, don’t harass.” It was a “compromise.” The military would accept gays, and not ask them their sexual preferences as long as they don’t speak out in favor of homosexuality, acknowledge their lives, or enter into any relationships with members of the same sex.

Harry Truman, by executive order, had dictated the end of segregation in the military. Clinton planned to do the same for those who are involved in same sex relationships. Opposing him were all of the military’s “big guns,” including Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. When Powell, a Black, was asked by gay-rights groups, and thousands of others, how he could support discrimination against gays while acknowledging that desegregation of the military allowed his own career to flourish, Powell merely said that the two were not the same. It was Powell, however, who crafted the revised policy.

Among the reasons the military claimed why gays couldn’t serve was because their presence would hurt troop morale and undermine combat effectiveness; gays could be security risks—they were likely to be blackmailed or compromised, said military commanders. The Navy’s Crittenden Report in 1957 discounted that reasoning. During the early 1980s, the Department of Defense issued an official declaration opposing gays in the military; the 124-word inflammatory new policy was designed to justify reasons why gays must not be allowed to serve. However, an independent RAND Corp. report in July 1993 found no logic to exclude gays from service, and concluded that military readiness would not be affected by having gays in service.

Congressional support to eliminate the ban came from several prominent Democrats, and one highly-respected Republican—Sen. Barry Goldwater (1909-1998). Goldwater, a pilot who retired as an Air Force major general, had numerous times had spoken out against the emerging dominance of the Religious Right in Republican politics. Although there is no clear-cut evidence that President Bush is homophobic, there is significant evidence that the continuation of the ban against gays in the military has been strengthened by the resurgence of the influence of the religious right wing during the Bush–Cheney Administration.

Because the military is a hierarchy, with constant jockeying for duty stations and promotion, there is no question that the Chairman’s views about what he believes is the immorality of homosexual behavior will influence every person in his command.

About 65,000 gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgenders now serve in the military, all of them officially hiding their non-military lives, according to the Urban Institute and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). Almost 9,500 members of the military, including hundreds in critical combat specialties, including 50 Arabic language specialists, have been forced out of the military between 1993 and 2005, according to SLDN.

In 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr (USA-ret.), RADM Alan Steinman (USCG-ret.), and Brig. Gen. Virgil Richard (USA-ret.), in a signed op-ed column in the New York Times, all stated they were gay. In an op-ed column for the New York Times, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed “if gay men and lesbians served openly . . . they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces.”

State and federal laws prohibit discrimination against a person’s sexual orientation; the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, and National Security Agency all have openly gay agents; The armed forces, says Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, “are the last institution in America that discriminates against people; it should be the first that doesn’t.”

Israel, which unarguably has one of the world’s most elite and effective military operations, officially bans discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders. Israel “has more gay rights than all of the U.S.,” says Denny Meyer, a former Vietnam era Army sergeant first class who is also editor of the Gay Military Times. Almost 30 nations—including most countries of the European Union—have no problems with anyone’s sexual orientation. The United Kingdom, whose soldiers serve with Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq, is even “actively recruiting” gays and lesbians, says Meyer. Of the 26 NATO nations, only the United States, Portugal, and Turkey don’t allow gays to openly serve in the military. And Turkey, says Meyer, “is close to allowing gays to serve.”

Almost three-fourths of all military personnel say they are “comfortable” with having gays and lesbians in their units, according to a Zogby poll in December. About one-fourth of all military persons say they know that a member of their unit is gay—and it has no effect upon them.

Former Sen. Chuck Robb, who served 34 years in active and reserve duty as a Marine officer, in 2002 said that “the threat to morale,” which some believe will occur if there is a policy to permit gays in the military, “comes not from the orientation of a few, but from the closed minds of many.”

About 79 percent of all Americans believe the military should allow gays to serve openly, according to a Boston Globe poll conducted in May 2005; a FOX News poll two years earlier revealed that 64 percent of all Americans had no problem with allowing gays to serve openly. About two-thirds of all Catholics and slightly more than half of all Protestants believe in the rights of gays to serve, according to a Pew Research Center study of March 2006.

Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), with 114 cosponsors, including conservative Republicans, on Feb. 28 introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) that would end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and replace it with absolute nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. With most of the world’s best military units not worried about the presence of gays in their ranks, with large majorities of both military and civilian personnel believing gays should be allowed to serve openly, and with a Democratic Congress that claims it plans to make necessary social changes, now is the time strike down the hostility of an intolerant minority and to eliminate one more form of officially-sanctioned discrimination.

[Assisting on this column were the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) and Servicemens Legal Defense Network (SLDN). For further information, contact the AVER (, SLDN (, Human Rights Campaign Foundation (, and The Gay Military Times

[ You may contact Dr. Brasch at His latest books are America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through most online stores, including]

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About Walter Brasch

Columnist, author, journalism professor. Latest book is BEFORE THE FIRST SNOW: STORIES FROM THE REVOLUTION, a look at the couterculture from 1964, as seen through the eyes of a "flower child" who is now middle-aged--and of the reporter who covered her story. The book is available through . . . Check out website, for further info. Or, just write me:
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5 Responses to An Intolerant Minority

  1. Bryan says:

    I have only respect for ALL military personnel; there service to our country and to each of us personally deserves nothing less… PERIOD!
    Thank you each and every one of you!


    Let us not be stopped by that which divides us but look for that which unites us. If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

    60 Asians
    12 Europeans
    5 US Americans and Canadians
    8 Latin Americans
    14 Africans

    49 would be female
    51 would be male

    82 would be non-white
    18 white

    89 heterosexual
    11 homosexual

    33 would be Christian
    67 would be non-Christian

    *80 would live in substandard housing

    *24 would not have any electricity
    (And of the 76% that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.

    *67 would be unable to read

    *1 (only one) would have a college education.

    *50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation

    *33 would be without access to a safe water supply

    *1 would have HIV

    *1 near death

    *2 would be near birth

    *7 people would have access to the Internet

    If to take a look at the world from this condensed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes evident.

    The problem in this country is NOT with the people who serve it and love it, but rather with those who wish to dominate and rape it.
    This administration and president has been in a self established dominating position for so long now that he is running low on sources to rape (Thank God!). Soon I feel he will know the feeling himself… I HOPE! Ditto to all of his accomplices in crime.

  2. Bryan

    Very interesting demographics. Thank you.

    And also a big thank you to Walter for the imformative post.

  3. Buzz says:

    Gays/lesbians remain the last US miniority group which are politically correct to hate. General Pace’s comments were those of a total bigot. I am gay and am also proud that I am veteran of the Vietnam War. Note that I am proud to have served but remain profoundly unproud of our Vietnam involvement. Yes, it is possible to support the troops but not support the mission.
    The “Don’t Ask Dont’ Tell” policy is blatently discriminaroty. An entire miniority is being excluded, not based on their qualifications and performance, but simply because of who they are. This policy is reminiscent of the “Seperate But Equal” policy, sanctioned for decades, which branded blacks an inheriently inferior miniority group. As the Supreme Court so eloquently ruled in their decision, any policy which endorces “seperate but equal”
    treatment of a particular group, is inheriently unequal.
    General Pace offered his unsolicited opinion that homosexuals were imoral. He further justified his homophobia by stating that this was just the way he was “brought up.” His weak attempt to apologize was anything but an apology. He states that he should have spoken more on his support of the policy and less on “his personal moral views”. However, since he chose to publically display his homophobia, an apology should be demanded by the Pentagon. His view has dishonered every gay American serving in Iraq and every gay American (living or dead) who has ever served. Republicans are so worried about what America’s opposition to the war will have on troop moral. However, think what General Pace’s comment has had on every gay GI currently risking their life every day in Iraq. In 2005 over 50 qualified, professional American military linguists, fluent in Arabic, were discharged just because they were gay. Now the Pentagon is complaining that they have a shortage of Arabic linguists in the war. Apparently their homophobia out trumps any strategic concerns abour the war on terror.
    It was truly fitting that General Pace stated that this was the way, “I was brought up”. Hate is not innate. It must be taught and carefully nurtured! I recently composed a poem entitled, “The Death Of Innocence” which I would like to share.
    A babies mind resembles a blank slate.
    Newborns aren’t predisposed to hate.
    The seeds of life are ones of love,
    Sowed by God and nurtured from above.

    And we, each made in God’s image on this earth,
    Have a solemn duty to affirm our children’s worth.
    They need guidance to keep tolerance alive,
    For without it, surely hate and bigotry will thrive.

    Each child’s eyes are truly color blind.
    The different hues of human skin they do not mind.
    It’s only thru an education based on hate,
    That their young minds will different skin shades rate.

    One’s religion does not matter to a child.
    To them God’s mercy is always tempered mild.
    They will play with a Christian, Muslim, or a Jew the same.
    It does not matter for partners in a game.

    If a playmate has two dads but not a mom,
    It makes no difference if their a friend and not a con.
    A word like “fag” they would never dare to speak,
    For it’s God’s plan that human kindness, we should seek.

    So, as you can see, hate is not innate.
    It must be taught for it a star to rate.
    Intolerance robs our children of their innocence,
    And creates in them a world devoid of common sense.

    To bad that General Pace, and so many more like him, will never be able to embrace the love and simplicity of this message!

  4. Ginny Cotts says:

    Great Post, Dr Brasch, thank you. As a Unitarian-Universalist and RN, GLBT rights and veterans issues have been the two hardest to watch floundering in hate speech and apathy. The combination is overwhelming. The rest of the ‘first’ world, as is more and more usual, leads us in human rights.

    Bryan, demographics saved for future reference and discussions! Thanks

  5. Ginny Cotts says:


    Your comment must have gotten caught in moderation. Wonderful poem and absolutely true.

    You should contact the Southern Poverty Law Center. They have a ‘Teaching Tolerance’ program and might be interested in it.