[Vision2020] Fwd: Admiral Says Military Gay Ban is "Odious"
Fri, 22 Aug 2003 10:08:13 -0700
By a pleasing coincidence, this message just crossed my desk . . .
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aaron Belkin, Director
Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military
University of California, Santa Barbara
SENIOR ADMIRAL SAYS LIFTING GAY BAN WOULD STRENGTHEN MILITARY
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
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
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
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
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