Lift the Ban Now

Harry S. Truman did not survey white soldiers to determine if they felt comfortable serving with African-American soldiers before he integrated the US military in 1948.  America’s soldiers are not asked if they mind serving with women, Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Muslims, or any other group.  They are not asked if they want to serve with wiccans, foreign nationals, or convicted criminals, or if they mind serving under NATO officers, gay or straight, from countries overseas.  Soldiers serve with whomever they are ordered to serve with, and if they are too immature to do so, they don’t belong in the military.

The US military does not need a year to study what will happen if we do the same exact thing that Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Israel and almost all of our other allies have already done, from one end of the globe to the other.  As our nation’s top military commander has testified, those countries experienced no problems whatsoever when gay and lesbian soldiers were allowed to serve openly.

Is there an assumption that America’s soldiers are somehow more ignorant or less professional than the soldiers of our allies?  America’s fighting forces are the best trained, most professional fighting force on the planet, and to insinuate that our men and women in uniform cannot accomplish what our allies have accomplished because our military is “bigger and better” is an insult to the intelligence of our troops.

The truth is this change is 20 years overdue.  There are many good reasons for lifting the ban, including the safety and security of our troops overseas and the protection of our homeland against the real and present danger of terrorism.  The only reason to maintain the ban is prejudice.  When General Omar Bradley, the very first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, opposed Truman’s plan to integrate “the Negro” into the military in 1948, he said, “the donning of a uniform does not change a man’s personality, his aptitude, or his prejudices.” With all due respect, prejudice has never been a valid justification to deny rights to citizens.  Not in the United States.  Not then.  Not now.

No American soldier should ever die on the battlefield because the medic who could have saved his life was kicked out of the military for being gay.  No politician has the right to decide for that wounded soldier that he would prefer not to have that medic save his life.  This isn’t kindergarten.  This is war.  Lift the ban now and move forward.

Danny Ingram, National President
American Veterans for Equal Rights