Double Secret Probation Update 28 Jan: Andrew Sullivan has linked here and I think you will see what he promised:
If you're interested in hearing a frank, smart, honest discussion of the gays-in-the-military issue among actual soldiers, gay and straight, then click here.
Well you're here. I started a new post and thread for comments here for folks joining now.
Again, for clarity, Uncle Jimbo started this ruckus not Matt/Blackfive. I figured a piece supporting removal of the ban against gays in the military would spark a lively debate and we got one.
UPDATE: One point I haven't made is that the policy prohibiting gays is not due overriding special consideration because it is the status quo. We are not judges looking at Stare Decisis, we are citizens determining the composition of our military. The prohibition was based on an idea that openly serving gays would undermine readiness, but I am unaware of scientific evidence supporting this assumption. If it exists, and is credible and current, then I would change my position. If it doesn't then we should look at this decision from the perspective of what best serves America, and we have pretty strong ideals against discrimination. If there is no proven need to ban homosexuals then shouldn't the default position be inclusion, and the burden of proof on those who wish to exclude?
Personal beliefs, religious beliefs, anecdotal evidence and anything beyond credible proof of harm to readiness have no bearing on a decision about an institution that serves and ought to be composed of all Americans fit and desiring to serve.
The main point of contention is the simplest, yet most difficult to resolve. Does the mere presence of openly gay troops undermine morale, camaraderie, and esprit de corps?
My view is that since there are currently a number of gay troops and little difficulty due to their presence, there is no need for the ban. We have effectively progressed beyond the point where most members of the military even care about sexual orientation in any way that would preclude them working side by side with gay people.
The opposing view is one I probably would have argued 10 years ago, and the first thing I would point out is that it is absolutely not a hater-based or homophobic argument. It is a pragmatic view that sexual tension of any sort undermines the bond needed to form a cohesive combat unit. The homophobic charge resonates to me with as much import as the chickenhawk one, reasonable people can differ without a need to belittle them. The most effective and diligent opponent of removing the ban was Chris Roach, who writes the Man-sized target blog at AFF's online mag Brainwash. He puts out the main reasons detailing the difficulties this could cause and defends them well in the ensuing discussions, which I have excerpted after the break.
I would like to note that I received a number of emails similar to this from Rachel, a college student working on a military R&D project:
"I'm reading the comments on the post at blackfive about gays in the military, and have to say I'm stunned at how civilized the discussion has been. While I was thinking this, I also thought that this is one of the things that makes me happy I live in the US. I feel that I am seeing a rational discussion of both sides of an issue that hasn't degraded to name calling and spiteful comments. Oh there may be a hint of snark here and there, but it is within some invisible, magical boundary that is keeping the conversation from turning into a cat fight."
Amen to that sister. When I wrote it I hoped we could air the issues and see how they play today, using the smart folks who read and write in the blogosphere to tighten up my own opinions. Having heard and digested the thoughts of many I still believe it should be changed, but have a better feel for the specifics necessary to make it happen.