General Shalikashvili Says Gays Should be Able to Serve Openly
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact:
AVER Public Affairs Officer 718 849-5665
On Tuesday January 2nd, General John M. Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in a New York Times op-ed that he now supports gays serving openly in America’s armed forces.
American Veterans For Equal Rights, a national veterans association, applauds General Shalikashvili for his leadership in endorsing opening service in America’s armed forces to all patriotic volunteers regardless of sexual orientation.
A J Rogue, President of American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER), said, “General Shalikashvili’s recent statement regarding his support of ending the ban of gays in the military sends a clear message to those who oppose having us serve our country: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has no clear purpose other than to deprive our nation of true patriotic men and woman who desire nothing more than to serve their Country openly and honorably. The idea that the Pentagon is considering changing its policy of immigrants serving in our Armed Forces, while at the same time depriving true citizens from serving, merely adds ammunition to our cause. Let those of us who wish to serve do so openly, without prejudice or discrimination.”
Dave Guy-Gainer, Vice President of AVER, said, “General John Shalikashvili, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in a January 2nd, 2007 op-ed for the New York Times that in 1993 he supported the policy of banning the service of gay and lesbian patriots because he believed then that “implementing a change in the rules at that time would have been too burdensome for our troops and our commanders. The compromise that became to be known as DADT thus was a useful speed bump that allowed temperatures to cool for a period of time while the culture continued to evolve.” Boldly in his article, General Shalikashvili states, “I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”
If the General were a politician, his change of position may be referred to as a flip flop. But, as any Veteran knows, one mark of a true leader is their ability to recognize situational change and inspire his or her forces to adapt. General Shalikashvili employed another tool of a leader when he did not direct but instead challenged today’s military leaders by saying “By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on the nation’s most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban.”
Unfortunately, bold remarks and a change in stance by one General will not end the harmful and damaging policy of DADT. It took his willingness to listen and the boldness of a small cadre of gay and lesbian veterans and their supporters to show this one General that the military has changed and that gay and lesbian patriots can be accepted by their peers. The General did not allude to the lifting of the ban as occurring overnight but instead said, “When that day comes…”
Rear Admiral Al Steinman said it well in a follow on article in the Gay Military Times – “we must redouble our effort.” I would modify that to “we must redouble our successes.” There are hundreds more Generals and hundreds more politicians to enlighten.
We need the one million gay and lesbian veterans to stand with us now! We need those who have fallen from the ranks to return now! We need those who have lost energy in the battle to find it and return now! We need the 11,000 whose lives were destroyed to stand proudly with us now! We need our straight and religious alliances to stand with us now! We must be even bolder than the 65,000 gay and lesbian patriots who put on their uniforms each day and serve.
We must accelerate the arrival of General Shalikashvili’s forecasted time of – “When that day comes, gay men and lesbians will no longer have to conceal who they are, and the military will no longer need to sacrifice those whose service it cannot afford to lose.”
Shalikashvili, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, American Veterans For Equal Rights
Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military
January 2, 2007
By JOHN M. SHALIKASHVILI
TWO weeks ago, President Bush called for a long-term plan to increase the size of the armed forces. As our leaders consider various options for carrying out Mr. Bush’s vision, one issue likely to generate fierce debate is “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that bars openly gay service members from the military. Indeed, leaders in the new Congress are planning to re-introduce a bill to repeal the policy next year.
As was the case in 1993 — the last time the American people thoroughly debated the question of whether openly gay men and lesbians should serve in the military — the issue will give rise to passionate feelings on both sides. The debate must be conducted with sensitivity, but it must also consider the evidence that has emerged over the last 14 years.
When I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I supported the current policy because I believed that implementing a change in the rules at that time would have been too burdensome for our troops and commanders. I still believe that to have been true. The concern among many in the military was that given the longstanding view that homosexuality was incompatible with service, letting people who were openly gay serve would lower morale, harm recruitment and undermine unit cohesion.
In the early 1990s, large numbers of military personnel were opposed to letting openly gay men and lesbians serve. President Bill Clinton, who promised to lift the ban during his campaign, was overwhelmed by the strength of the opposition, which threatened to overturn any executive action he might take. The compromise that came to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” was thus a useful speed bump that allowed temperatures to cool for a period of time while the culture continued to evolve.
The question before us now is whether enough time has gone by to give this policy serious reconsideration. Much evidence suggests that it has.
Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.
This perception is supported by a new Zogby poll of more than 500 service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, three quarters of whom said they were comfortable interacting with gay people. And 24 foreign nations, including Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism, let gays serve openly, with none reporting morale or recruitment problems.
I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.
But if America is ready for a military policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation, the timing of the change should be carefully considered. As the 110th Congress opens for business, some of its most urgent priorities, like developing a more effective strategy in Iraq, share widespread support that spans political affiliations. Addressing such issues could help heal the divisions that cleave our country. Fighting early in this Congress to lift the ban on openly gay service members is not likely to add to that healing, and it risks alienating people whose support is needed to get this country on the right track.
By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on solving the nation’s most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban. When that day comes, gay men and lesbians will no longer have to conceal who they are, and the military will no longer need to sacrifice those whose service it cannot afford to lose.
John M. Shalikashvili, a retired army general, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997.