Debating the Gay Ban


Marine Col. Fred Peck and his son Scott Peck, a student at UMBC, have demonstrated that the debate over gays in the military can be carried on with mutual understanding, respect and even affection by those of opposing views. Most opponents of lifting the Pentagon's ban on admitted homosexuals are, we are sure, decent, caring and intelligent men and women like Colonel Peck. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he favors the ban for the traditional military reasons. He also told it that he loves his son, who is gay, but would not want him to follow his own career path.

A spokesman for a militant gay rights group promptly denounced Colonel Peck for "sell[ing] out his own son to ignorance and fear." That is so obviously wrong as to be beneath contempt. As for fear, the colonel made it clear his greatest concern was that his son, as an openly gay Marine infantry platoon leader or company commander, might be in danger from bigots in his own unit. As for ignorance, it seems to us that just as some supporters of the ban display a lack of knowledge about the realities of gay life and behavior, so do many gay rights advocates display a lack of knowledge about the realities of military culture and society. We take that position that even though we oppose the ban.

The main purpose of the Armed Services Committee hearings is to inform people on both sides of the issue (and those without an opinion) about both realities. To dispel ignorance on both sides. VTC The senators have done a good job so far. We believe some citizens, including some members of Congress, are in the process of changing old, set attitudes about the issue based on the hearings record.

The second purpose of the hearings is to recommend a policy for the services. Time is beginning to be a factor on that. President Clinton has said he wants Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to give him a draft executive order ending the ban one way or another before July 15. That draft should not be prepared till Secretary Aspin has a sense of the politics of the situation. The order ought to be acceptable to a majority of senators and representatives. The current policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has a growing number of advocates in Congress.

Compromise on both sides is in order. No one thinks this will be easy, but Fred Peck and Scott Peck have shown that in real life as well as in theory, well-intentioned people can handle even such profound disagreements as this.

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