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Should Gays Be Allowed to Serve in the Military?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
I agree with guaranteeing the rights of all Americans. But, there is a serious problem with allowing gays to serve openly in the military. The easiest way to make my point is to respectfully ask a question. “How would you feel if your daughter was forced to work, eat, sleep, use communal bathrooms and take showers with a group of men who found her sexually attractive”? If you want to do a social experiment why not fully integrate male and female service members first and see how it works out?

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The modesty solutions that allowed women to integrate themselves successfully throughout the overwhelming majority of the military work for single-gender interaction also.

Many homosexual men and women serve honorably today–and always have, throughout history.

What cannot be tolerated is predatory or oppressive behavior from either homosexual or heterosexual people. It is proper behavior, not gender or orientation, that is the standard we need to uphold.

I was recently saddened to receive an e-mail from a lesbian servicewoman who was extorted to have sex with a heterosexual serviceman who threatened to out her.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is just as much egregious behavior done by heterosexual people as homosexual people. Since there are far more heterosexual people, that’s where the majority of the problem is.



  • Anonymous

    To LukeThanks for providing a respectful and logical answer. Your answer is the kind that makes reasonable people think about their personal paradigm and examine whether their conclusions should be re-evaluated. Your example of the email from the “lesbian servicewoman who was extorted to have sex with a heterosexual serviceman who threatened to out her” is almost impossible to reason against. She was without a doubt the victim of a serious crime. She cannot report it with out being discharged. I cannot just dismiss that in my mind. I will have to think about it carefully for some time. Having said that, I still don’t think you have addressed this issue from the perspective of the heterosexual community. To Dan Downing,You don’t know any thing about me and made a personal attribution about my character simply because I disagree with you. You aren’t going to win over many people with your Ad hominem reasoning. I actually thought your response was humorous until you really crossed the line with your statement “what about all the sexual assaults that servicemen commit against women.” It is obscene to jump to the conclusion that not agreeing with the idea of gays openly serving in the military means a person thinks it is ok to sexually assault women. To Jason T,Respectfully – The services are integrated but men and women are not forced into intimate situations. The advocates for allowing gays in the services don’t consider how this will affect heterosexuals. Like Luke said “… there are far more heterosexual people” it is only reasonable to consider the impact reversing this policy will have on the vast majority.To Chuck StevensRespectfully – I did not say or imply that homosexuals cannot control their urges. The vast majority of heterosexuals can control their urges but again men and women in the military are not forced into intimate situations.

  • Anonymous

    Gays are already serving in the military and have been since the inception of the organized military, so the question should be should they have to lie about it. I say hecka no and if they can find Osama I’ll kick off the parade.

  • Anonymous

    So many of the comments on this article are based on personal moral values rather than the civil liberties all Americans must share if we are to remain a democracy. America should take stock in its history as well as the policy of other military branches as it works toward developing a better policy for the U.S. military. I want to echo two comments that ring true in my mind: First, fitness for duty and a willingness to serve ought to be the general criteria. Second, sexual predators and those who cannot exercise self-control must be removed from all parts of society regardless of their orientation.

  • Anonymous

    Gay’s already serve in the military. Most people know that they are gay. In my unit people just didn’t speak about it. Some times joks were made but because the guys were realy nice and they didn’t bother anyone with it worked out fine. Like everything else, It will just take time for people to get used to it.

  • Anonymous

    Luke, To your great credit you actually address one of the central issues. Your statement “modesty for all service people, hetero or homosexual, is not that big a thing to handle for the overwhelming majority of people who serve” is correct for some serving in the military at certain stages in their career but does not consider all service members. It doesn’t consider Boot Camp (Basic Training) which requires recruits to live together in open squad bays and use common facilities (note – male and female recruits live in separate squad bays and use separate facilities). Also it doesn’t consider service members assigned to units that deploy to the field constantly (note- male and female service members live in separate tents and use separate facilities). During my 20+ years on active duty I spent much of my career deployed in the field either in a combat operation or in a field exercise in combat like conditions. Women were integrated and accommodated into these units shortly after my career began. I served with women in the field for over twenty years and understand the practical requirements of deploying an integrated unit. Aside from the practical considerations, the truth is that the vast majority of service members and Americans still don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. Most Americans tolerate it because Americans are great people and can accept people they don’t agree with.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your kind words.I don’t think it’s that difficult to build a reasonable level of modesty into Boot Camp. For some field operations, additional modesty considerations will need to be made. The benefit is significant: Mathematically, diversity builds quality in any organization. This is because people are created equally; therefore, talent is distributed equally (it may not be prepared equally in our school system, but that’s relatively easy to correct). You’re incorrect about “the vast majority” of service members and Americans. Many polls, such as Pew Research and Gallup show that the majority of Americans are in favor of equal rights for LGBT people. This is an increasing trend. I would add that being gay is as much a lifestyle as being heterosexual. I’m not going to change my “lifestyle” when it comes to orientation – it’s baked in. If you did 20+ years on active duty, we’re probably in the same age group – the baby boom generation. Baby boomers are only 5% of the military population and it’s mostly our generation that has a problem with adjusting to the increase in civil and human rights for our LGBT citizens – the younger generations simply don’t care as much – so the young service people have far less of a problem than people in our generation. In closing, your last point is the best point. Americans ARE a great people – I think President Obama draws huge crowds when he speaks in other countries for two reasons: His skills as an orator, but more importantly, what he represents to people around the planet: It IS possible for a person not in the majority culture to rise to power based on his/her skill and intellect. It is most possible in America. Our values are to increase human and civil rights. It is what our Revolution was based on and it is what makes us powerful. Advancing LGBT rights, including the right to serve with honor and openness are in the best tradition of American culture – it is evidence that our Revolution continues to live. I will borrow the key phrase from your service: Semper Fi.

  • I admit I have no idea what a military life is like. I have never served and neither has anyone close to me.But I do know that in other countries, openly gay people have served for years. And you don’t hear anything about it causing a big crisis regarding modesty or privacy or…anything, really. They just serve their respective countries like everybody else.I think we tend to forget here in the United States that other countries have already tried this type of thing and so we already know that none of these supposed horrible things happen because of them.

  • Anonymous

    From an ethics standpoint, I do believe that LGBs should be able to serve openly in the military. From a personal standpoint, I honestly don’t care if a person that I’m working with is gay and, unless we’re friends, I don’t see the point in your telling me. As a result, I don’t personally see anything wrong with the basic concept of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (although people should NOT be dismissed if they tell) because your sexuality is irrelevant to the job.Now, people do need to realize that this is the military and when you join the military, your purpose is to fight and kill in order to protect the liberties enjoyed by American civilians. When you join the military, you give up a number of basic freedoms that civilians enjoy. For example, at Westpoint Military Academy, you can’t just leave campus on a whim and get your girlfriend pregnant; you lose that right when you sign up and you’ll be dismissed if you exercise this right. Your rights in the military are not the same as in civilian society.Also, the military is about a person’s ability to perform their job. Some people are simply incapable of working with a homosexual person because of their own moral views but are still excellent, law-abiding soldiers. So the question is, do you get rid of an excellent soldier on your team just because they’re homophobic? Of course not, especially if their replacement is just average. There simply needs to be a compromise. Identify the homophobes and place them on teams together without any LGBs, that way, everyone gets to serve to their full ability and to the full benefit to our country.MY POINT: LBGs deserve all of the same rights as any straight person in society, but the military is a unique area and must make certain concessions and adjustments to accommodate all law-abiding soldiers.

  • Anonymous

    “R C” has a good point to their credit: While women are segregated from the men to secure privacy and to discourage intimate relations, how would one go about discourage homosexual intimate relations in an environment where they cannot be segregated? Ultimately, this is an issue that will have to be addressed sooner or later.However, this issue is rooted in stereotype and unconscious bigotry. It’s based on the assumption that: A) Homosexuals are sexually insatiable, B) Homosexuals have a predatory manner when it comes to fulfilling their carnal needs, and C) Homosexuals have far less sexual self-control than their heterosexual counterparts.The same level of discipline that “R C” developed while in military service is not an exclusive heterosexual trait. Self-discipline and self-control are qualities that are inherent in everyone. Yes, there is a common perception that homosexuals are less inhibited – indeed, there are many in the GLB community who are very sexually open and active – but “R C” glosses over the fact that it is not a perception that can be applied to the GLB community as a whole. In fact, many gay men (who usually fall under this perception) are turning away from promiscuity and are becoming more conservative in their sexuality.Like I stated in my earlier comment, our troops have far more pressing matters to concern themselves with than who’s scoping them out in the shower room.

  • Anonymous

    With all due respect to Tiana, who seems to have her heart in the right place, I hope that when I change one of her paragraphs this way:”Also, the military is about a person’s ability to perform their job. Some people are simply incapable of working with a Black person … but are still excellent, law-abiding soldiers. So the question is, do you get rid of an excellent soldier on your team just because they’re racist? Of course not, especially if their replacement is just average. There simply needs to be a compromise. Identify the racists and place them on teams together without any POCs, that way, everyone gets to serve to their full ability and to the full benefit to our country. “the problems with the concept are obvious.

  • I don’t care, if the majority of the troops serving think its ok, who I’m I to say it’s not; they are the ones being killed. So I say let the troops decide.

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