The ink is scarcely dry on President Clinton’s executive order allowing homosexuals to serve in the U.S. military subject to certain conditions. Even so, two things are already clear:
First, the order as drafted is unworkable, at best. At worst, it is a Trojan Horse, calculated to devolve — whether through further administrative action or judicial decisions — into an unencumbered right to service in the armed forces for openly gay individuals.
And second, Congress will have to intervene if the military is to be protected against the sort of sustained and demoralizing assault against its institutional character and precepts that will make the armed forces’ life-and-death struggle with drug abuse during the 1970s look like a church social.
An Indefensible Line
The Clinton executive order on gays in the military that President Clinton called an "honorable compromise" is, in fact, the proverbial camel produced by a committee. It reflects: the handiwork of several advisory panels, scores of lawyers and innumerable sessions between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon’s civilians; a desire to accommodate concerns forcefully expressed by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA); and tinkering by avowedly homosexual Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Gerry Studds (D-MA) and by Mr. Clinton, himself.
Given its many authors and their strongly held and often conflicting views, it is perhaps not surprising that the product of this decision-making process is seriously flawed. A candid recognition of that reality is, nonetheless, essential if sensible policy choices are to be made in response to it.
The new executive order proposes to replace the previous, categorical prohibition on homosexuals in the military — in accordance with which a serviceman or woman discovered to be gay would be swiftly discharged — with an untenable standard: Homosexuals can serve in the military unless they act in a manner consistent with their homosexuality. Indeed, pursuant to the compromise wrested from the senior military leadership, the order would allow serving homosexuals to visit gay bars, march in gay parades, read gay literature and display photographs of their homosexual partners. According to President Clinton, they can even publicly avow their homosexuality.
Such an arrangement makes inevitable judicial decisions striking down prohibitions on overt sexual activity like holding hands and other public displays of affection that would be denied to homosexuals but permitted for heterosexuals. An even more far-reaching assault on the Uniform Code of Military Justice may be in the offing insofar as the UCMJ allows heterosexuals to engage in more intimate sexual relations but prohibits both oral sex and sodomy. If left unaltered by the Congress, the Clinton executive order will eventually — if not in the reasonably near future — be eviscerated by the courts with only immense legal expenses, divisive debate and demoralizing rancor in the military to show for the exercise.
What Congress Must Do
Of course, there is no reason why Congress should leave the Clinton order intact. Starting with this morning’s hearings before Sen. Nunn’s Armed Services Committee, the Congress will have an opportunity to examine with great care the practical implications of the President’s new policy on gays in the military.
If the Senate committee and its House counterpart closely question the Joint Chiefs of Staff about their personal views as to the workability and sustainability of this policy initiative, there will, at a minimum, be grounds for further elaboration and codification of what is permitted and prohibited under this order. (For example, since homosexual conduct would be prohibited, recruiters — who may not ask under this policy whether an individual is gay — should be explicitly authorized to ask whether the prospective recruit has previously engaged in homosexual behavior.)
More likely, however, the Congress will be given ample basis for enacting the only standard The immediate rejection of the Clinton "compromise" by gay rights groups and their announced intention to file numerous class action and other suits mean that Congress must act swiftly and decisively if endless litigation and disruptive turmoil in the ranks are to be avoided. that meets the military’s requirements for good order and discipline and that can be sustained in the courts: an outright ban on homosexuals in the armed forces.
The Bottom Line
The Center for Security Policy commends leading legislators like Senators Nunn and Dan Coats (R-IN) and Reps. Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who have expressed strong misgivings about the wisdom and feasibility of integrating avowed homosexuals into the armed forces. It believes that the hearings beginning today on the Clinton policy can only serve to reinforce apprehensions over the deleterious effect this social experiment will have on the U.S. military’s primary mission — namely, to defend the nation — and catalyze necessary corrective action by the Congress.
Such a step by Congress would have another desirable effect, however: It would lay to rest an insidious argument now being trumpeted by homosexual rights advocates and their partisans to the effect that the services’ resistance to integrating avowedly gay individuals into the armed forces is a threat to civilian control of the military. As the attached Defense News column by Center director Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. makes cleear effective civilian-military relations are a function of mutual respect, not merely constitutional arrangements. Congressional rejection of President Clinton’s flawed executive order would not only be the ultimate expression of civilian authority but also an important manifestation of that authority’s appropriate regard for the U.S. military’s professional judgments and fighting trim.