Sunday, October 24, 2004

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Irresistibility

As long as we are discussing the military during this presidential contest, it is fair to discuss Senator Kerry's position on gays in the military. The Center for Military Readiness has a transcript of Kerry's 1993 Senate hearing testimony here. The following portion of the testimony deserves further analysis:

Now, take the issue of living in close quarters and communal showers. Some folks say they do not mind living or showering with someone who is gay as long as the fact is not explicit. Only once it becomes explicit, somehow the world is going to end. Now, I do not know exactly what those who express those kinds of fears are thinking. I mean are they that irresistible? I suspect some of the guys who most fear being approached by gay men also consider themselves irresistible to heterosexual women, and they are probably sadly mistaken on both counts, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, Senator Kerry is apparently making reference to the confirmation hearings of then-Judge Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. A witness for Thomas, John Doggett, was portrayed by Senator Patrick Leahy as believing himself to be "irresistible" to women. (Check out the transcript here to see if that is a fair representation of Doggett's testimony.) It was a cheap shot by Senator Kerry to insert a reference to another contentious set of Senate hearings into the 1993 hearings.

Second, Senator Kerry ignores the fact that the concerns are not just about unwanted sexual advances, but also wanted sexual advances. The military enforces strict physical separation between the living quarters of men and women, not because the men find themselves "irresistible," but because doing otherwise would have predictable results.

Segregation by sex stands in stark contrast to racial integration in the military. The military has full integration in terms of race, partial integration of the two sexes, and a complete ban on physical handicaps. Although the junior senator from Massachusetts can find nuance in the War on Terror, he seems unable to grasp that the military does not follow the equal opportunity rules of the society at large.

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