US Senate Repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy
Today the US Senate voted 65-31 to permit open homosexuality in the US military, prohibited up until now under a compromise “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy introduced in 1993 under President Clinton. Prior to that time, homosexuals were not permitted in the US military
By Robert Moynihan
US Senate Repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy
In a dramatic move today to pass controversial legislation during December prior to the arrival of more conservative legislators in January, the US Senate passed legislation permitting open homosexuality in the US military for the first time.
The military has been operating under a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy introduced as a compromise under President Bill Clinton in 1993, in which homosexuals were allowed to serve as long as they did not openly live a homosexual lifestyle.
Prior to 1993, homosexuality or homosexual activity was reason to be discharged from military service.
The effect of this legislation is to make homosexuality much more “mainstream” in American culture and society than it has been up until now.
A likely consequence will be increased pressure for approval nationwide of homosexual marriage.
Here are excerpts from the New York Times report (I have cut only three paragraphs on other legislation):
Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
(Photo: Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Carl Levin made their way to a press conference after the Senate advanced the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Photo by Drew Angerer/The New York Times)
By CARL HULSE
Published: December 18, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.
By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.
Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban. “As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known,” Mr. Obama said in a statement after the Senate, on a 63-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block a final vote on the repeal bill.
The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial segregation in the military. It followed a review by the Pentagon that found little concern in the military about lifting the ban and was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.
Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to end what they saw as an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.
“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut who led the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done justice.” (…)
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.
The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.
It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of banning gay men and lesbians entirely from military service. Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, activists who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.
“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history. “I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”
He and other opponents of lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.
“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about the policy. “It is working very well.”
Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.
“In the middle of a military conflict, is not the time to do it,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia.
Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over the ability to debate the measure.
In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.
The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”
Because of the uncertainty, Mr. Sarvis appealed to Mr. Gates to suspend any investigations into military personnel or discharge proceedings under the policy to be overturned in the coming months.
Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing troops to lie. He said 14,000 members of the armed forces had been forced to leave the ranks under the policy.
“What a waste,” he said.
The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in his own campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban — including one wounded in combat before being forced from the military — watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.
Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.
“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader and a crucial proponent of the repeal, noted that some Republicans had indicated they might try to block Senate approval of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia because of their pique over the Senate action on the ban.
“How’s that’s for statesmanship?” Mr. Reid said.
The Church’s Position
Archbishop Timothy Broglio (photo, with US soldiers) the head of the Military Ordinariate in Washington, expressed the position of the Church on this matter in a letter June 1 calling on the US Congress not to change the current legislation.
Archbishop Broglio’s statement on proposed legislation, issued on June 1, may be found at this link: https://milarch.org/index/news-app/story.81/title.archbishop-broglio-s-statement-on-proposed-legislation
June 1, 2010
In a response to a request from the Chiefs of Chaplains of the Armed Forces I communicated some considerations and concerns regarding the proposal to change the existing legislation regarding persons with a homosexual orientation in the military. In fulfilling my role as the chief shepherd of Catholics in the United States Armed Forces, I have had the opportunity of visiting many installations in the recent past. A number of chaplains and commanding officers have expressed concerns about the effects of a change. There is a request for guidance.
The teaching of the Catholic Church is clearly expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,(140) tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”(141) They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Consequently, those with a homosexual orientation can expect respect and treatment worthy of their human dignity. The prohibitions regarding sexual harassment and intimidation refer just as much to homosexuals as to anyone else. However, unions between individuals of the same gender resembling marriage will not be accepted or blessed by Catholic chaplains. Furthermore, no restrictions or limitations on the teaching of Catholic morality can be accepted. First Amendment rights regarding the free exercise of religion must be respected.
This means that Catholic chaplains must show compassion for persons with a homosexual orientation, but can never condone—even silently—homosexual behavior. A change might have a negative effect on the role of the chaplain not only in the pulpit, but also in the classroom, in the barracks, and in the office.
A more fundamental question, however, should be raised. What exactly is the meaning of a change? No one can deny that persons with a homosexual orientation are already in the military. Does the proposed change authorize these individuals to engage in activities considered immoral not only by the Catholic Church, but also by many other religious groups? Will there be changes in the living conditions, especially in the AOR?
There is no doubt that morality and the corresponding good moral decisions have an effect on unit cohesion and the overall morale of the troops and effectiveness of the mission. This Archdiocese exists to serve those who serve and it assists them by advocating moral behavior. The military must find ways to promote that behavior and develop strong prohibitions against any immoral activity that would jeopardize morale, good morals, unit cohesion and every other factor that weakens the mission. So also must a firm effort be made to avoid any injustices that may inadvertently develop because individuals or groups are put in living situations that are an affront to good common sense.
I think that those questions require an adequate response. The effect of a repeal of the current legislation has the potential of being enormous and overwhelming. Nothing should be changed until there is certainty that morale will not suffer. Sacrificing the moral beliefs of individuals or their living conditions to respond to merely political considerations is neither just nor prudent especially for the armed forces at a time of war. Catholics believe that nothing will be done if there is a careful and prudent evaluation of the effects of a change.
For years, those struggling with alcoholism have benefitted from Alcoholics Anonymous. Like homosexuality, there is rarely a cure. There is a control through a process, which is guarded by absolute secrecy. It is an equivalent to “Don’t ask don’t tell”. The process has worked well for some time without the charge that it is discriminatory.
The Archdiocese for the Military Services—the only jurisdiction charged with the pastoral care of all Catholics in the military, VA Administration, and at the service of the Federal Government outside of the boundaries of the United States, which is also charged with endorsing Roman Catholic priests urges the Congress not to repeal the current policy for the Armed Forces.
+Archbishop Timothy Broglio,
Archbishop for the Military Services USA
Putin Says Gays Permitted in Russian Military, But Gay Marriage Opposed
In a December 1 interview with Larry King on CNN, Russian leader Vladimir Putin was asked about homosexuality in Russia, where “gay pride” marches have in the past been prohibited. Putin said gays were permitted in the Russian military, but that the Russian state opposes gay marriage, especially because of the demographic crisis (lack of children) facing Russia. Here is the transcript of that exchange.
KING: What is the Russian policy toward gays and lesbians in your military?
PUTIN: As regards to the attitude toward gays and lesbians, well, you know, I once tried to — to answer similar questions before. We in Russia, like generally speaking in Europe, for that matter, the question is very acute with regards to demography. We’ve been undertaking very serious efforts to change the situation somehow. And we’ve been able to do that.
I believe that we probably have the best results with the speed of the change in demography. For the first time over 10 or 15 years, we have witnessed a very stable trend of growth of birth rates in our country and at the end of this year, we’ll have some growth of population.
And one gender marriages will not give you offsprings. Therefore, we are very patient to the sexual minorities, but still we believe that the state should support the processes having to do with the birth rate, mother and child care, infancy and take care of the health of those people.
KING: But are gays permitted to actively serve in your military and be able to say they are gay?
PUTIN: There are no prohibitions.
KING: Do we —
PUTIN: In the Soviet Union, that was about criminal responsibility for same gender sex. Now, there are no prohibitions or bans on that score.
Here is a link to the entire interview: http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1012/01/lkl.01.html
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