McCain on Homosexuality

11 May 2007

John McCain recently wrote a letter (available HERE) in which he refers to the presence of open homosexuals in the military as an “intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline” as well as national security.

In the process of explaining his position, McCain makes the mistake of saying about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy that "[I]t has also been upheld by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that the military may constitutionally discharge a servicemember for overt sexual behavior." But in reality, the highest court to rule on this kind of case was the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court hasn't touched it.

The Supreme Court said this in 1984 (Palmore v. Sidoti) about giving such credence to racial discrimination, and I think it's very much applicable here:

"The question, however, is whether the reality of private biases and the possible injury they might inflict are permissible considerations... We have little difficulty concluding that they are not. The Constitution cannot control such prejudices but neither can it tolerate them. Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect. 'Public officials sworn to uphold the Constitution may not avoid a constitutional duty by bowing to the hypothetical effects of private racial prejudice that they assume to be both widely and deeply held.'"
McCain further explains: "I believe polarization of the personnel and breakdown of unit effectiveness is too high a price to pay for well intentioned but misguided efforts to elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units." But it hardly seems like a misguided effort to elevate your interests when all you're asking for is to not get fired for being who you are. Since the DADT was first implemented, more than 11,000 servicemembers have been discharged for just that (many of whom even had special skills needed by the military).

Further, this is hardly a question about "unit cohesion." Charles Moskos, the principle author of DADT himself, has stated: "Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that...I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay." It should be perfectly clear to any observant person that this is a question of whether or not the private prejudices of certain individuals within the military should be sufficient to bar an entire class of people from military service. The answer to that question, as stated in Palmore, is clearly "no."

  • A Zogby poll in December found that 73% of servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan were "comfortable with lesbians and gays."
  • A 2004 poll found that a majority of junior servicemembers believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
  • A 2007 Harris poll found that 55% of the American population favors allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

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