[Vision2020] Fwd: Admiral Says Military Gay Ban is "Odious"

Melynda Huskey mghuskey@hotmail.com
Fri, 22 Aug 2003 10:08:13 -0700

By a pleasing coincidence, this message just crossed my desk . . .

Melynda Huskey


Aaron Belkin, Director
Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military
University of California, Santa Barbara

Former Navy JAG Calls 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' "Odious"

SANTA BARBARA, CA, August 21, 2003 - The retired Judge Advocate General
(JAG) for the Navy, Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, has called for the end of 
the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay soldiers 
from service.  In an article published this month in the National Law 
Journal Admiral Hutson called the gay ban "virtually unworkable in the 
military."  The article argues that the policy is the "quintessential 
example of a bad compromise," and that the "don't ask,
don't tell" regulations are a "charade" that "demeans the military as an 
honorable institution."

Admiral Hutson, who retired in 2000, now lives with his wife in New 
Hampshire, where he serves as dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law 
Center.  As JAG, Hutson was the senior uniformed attorney in the Department 
of the Navy.  His job was to oversee all legal issues in the Navy, supervise 
the 750 lawyers in the JAG Corps who serve around the world, and provide 
legal counsel to top commanders, including the Secretary of the Navy and the 
Chief of Naval Operations.

In an interview this week with the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities 
in the Military, University of California, Santa Barbara, he said he 
initially supported the policy, concluding that "a satisfactory resolution 
was impossible then."  Since it was hammered out in 1993, however, much has 
changed.  "At that time," he said, "we thought the sky could fall.  To 
completely overturn the policy ran the risk of undermining our ability to 
complete our mission."  But with the benefit of over a decade of experience 
with the policy, and with what he called a "somewhat more enlightened 
population, particularly among younger people," he now believes it's time to 
end the ban.  "That was then and
this is now," he said.  "I am now convinced, as I was not then, that the 
military could survive" lifting the ban entirely.

When the policy was adopted, he explained, "I don't think any of us thought 
it was going to be permanent.  Nobody liked it.  So then the question became 
how long?  Is it going to be a generation?  Fifty years? I think enough 
things have happened in the country, and then on top of it all, you've got 
the Supreme Court overturning the [sodomy] statute, that it just became time 
to reconsider."

Admiral Hutson was a Navy Captain in the office of the JAG in 1993 when the 
current gay ban was formulated, serving as the JAG's executive assistant.  
In 1997, he became the JAG himself, and it fell to him to enforce the 
policy.  Since retiring from the Navy in 2000, he has gained "a somewhat 
different perspective, and I think a richer one."  He now perceives "a very 
low level of support for the policy."  He advocates ending the ban because 
he recognizes "that the American public is more ready for this and is not 
crazy about the policy."

Defenders of the ban have long argued that allowing gays to serve openly 
would impair unit cohesion and undermine military readiness.  But a growing 
number of observers now argue that the ban itself, not the presence of gays, 
may threaten morale, cohesion and performance.

Last year, the policy faced a barrage of criticism when Americans learned 
that nearly two dozen Army linguists, many specialists in Arabic, were 
discharged under "don't ask, don't tell."

Admiral Hutson said that ending the ban could help strengthen the military.  
"Eliminating the policy on balance now would serve a greater good and in 
many respects would foster cohesion.  Unburdened by
this odious policy, the Department of Defense might come out stronger, and 
more able to defend the country."  He explained this was not only because 
more people could join or remain in the service, but
because the public's support of the military could increase.  "There is 
right now what I perceive to be this blemish on [the armed forces], and it 
ought to be removed.  And if it is removed, ultimately the military would 
feel better about itself and it would be held in even higher regard by 
removing this fundamental unfairness for a fairly significant population in 
the country."

Since Congress made the gay ban a federal statute, the Pentagon cannot 
overturn the policy without Congressional action.  But Admiral Hutson said 
that, although Congress would need to act to repeal the ban, the Department 
of Defense could take the lead and use its influence to reverse the policy.  
"The way things tend to work inside the beltway," he said, "if the 
Department of Defense put up enough of a squawk, Congress would not stand in 
the way."  He said the Pentagon could initiate studies, interview soldiers, 
and call on the legislature to reconsider the law.  "At some point, 
obviously it needs to see the light of day."

Admiral Hutson was prompted to write the article in the National Law Journal 
after the Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws early this summer.  
While that decision did not immediately end military
regulations banning sodomy and prohibiting openly gay soldiers, legal 
challenges are underway using the High Court's recent decision as a new 
precedent.  Dean Hutson argues that the American public has "moved far 
enough along" for it to accept openly gay soldiers, an assertion that is 
born out by several polls both within and outside the military.

Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of 
Sexual Minorities in the Military, said Admiral Hutson is the most eminent 
military officer to call unambiguously for the lifting of the
gay ban.  "As the former JAG of the Navy," Dr. Frank said, "Hutson's 
comments warrant special attention."  The Santa Barbara Center has published 
studies on the Israeli, British, Australian and Canadian militaries since 
they lifted their gay bans, which conclude that allowing gays to serve 
openly does not undermine military readiness.

Admiral Hutson fears that the U.S. military is "falling further and further 
behind" the American public.  "This is what's discouraging to me" he said. 
"I don't want an institution for which I have great affection to be 
antiquated in its ideas.  The military is better than that."

The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military is an official 
research unit of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The Center is 
governed by a distinguished board of advisors including the Honorable 
Lawrence J. Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations, Honorable Coit Blacker 
of Stanford University and Professor Janet Halley of Harvard Law School.  
Its mission is to promote the study of gays, lesbians, and other sexual 
minorities in the armed forces. More information is available at 

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot

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