By Antonia Mandry(*)
The first soldier to be wounded in Iraq was Sgt. Eric Alva. In the military since the 1980s, he had served previously in Somalia before he stepped on a land mine on March 21, 2003 and lost his right leg. Awarded the Purple Heart and honored by those around him, Eric Alva still had to lie about his sexual orientation.
Eric Alva is gay and a decorated soldier,but he is not given the same rights as his heterosexual peers: the right to be honest about who he is.
Eric Alva is now retired, but if he had revealed his sexual orientation while still on active duty, he would have faced immediate discharge. In the 1990s, former President Clinton implemented the”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, whereby if the military personnel does not state that they are homosexual, or engage in homosexual acts, they will be allowed to serve their country. Further, the Uniform Code of Military Justice,implemented in 1950, only explicitly lists Sodomy as a dischargeable act in Article 125:
925. ART. 125. SODOMY
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration , however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
The article does not equate sodomy explicitly with homosexuality as anal intercourse with a person of the opposite sex is also forbidden. But it does implicitly target homosexuals and equate homosexual acts with bestiality. Finally, upon entering the military, the candidate is presented with a paragraph to sign briefly stating that they will not engage in homosexual acts while in the military. All of these actions bring about one result: the discrimination against a group of people based solely on their sexual orientation.
On March 12, 2007, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace openly expressed his personal homophobic prejudices by saying that he thinks homosexuality is immoral and that gay personnel should not be allowed to serve openly. Gen. Pace wants to make liars out of his soldiers. The choice for gay soldiers becomes: do I serve my country and lie or do I quit the military and tell the truth? Gen. Pace knows that this is their choice and doesn’t want “them” around, so he supports this policy of discrimination.
According to the March 12, 2007 Chicago Tribune article, an expert sociologist named Charles Moskos reports that he has heard many “enlisted members use that reasoning[morality] when opposing gays in the military.“However, Zog by International and Michael D. Palm Center’s recent poll shows that “US military personnel are increasingly at ease serving with openly gay colleagues. The poll reveals that 73 percent of military members aren’t bothered by lesbians and gays.“This is an increase of 60 percent from 1993 which was the context in which the”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was crafted. Further, politicians are also willing to reevaluate the policy: Rep. Marty Meeh an (D-Mass.) is pushing a bill that stops the legislated discrimination against gays serving openly in the military.
Today, as the Iraq War enters its fourth year, and with the recent “surge” of soldiers into the war, troops and support are more needed than ever. Gay service personnel are used and allowed to serve only as long as they lie about themselves. Straight service personnel do not have this restriction placed on them: to lie about their personal lives and their identity. The American Heritage Dictionary defines discrimination as “treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice” (italics mine). Gay soldiers are affected by this discrimination directly, and the quality of our military is decreasing accordingly. When we force them to lie or leave, we lose qualified people who have much to offer via their individual merit rather than their membership in a particular group.
Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/27/
Uniform Code of Military Justice, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/ucmj2.htm#925.%20ART.%20125.%20
SODOMY (article on homosexuality)