Friday, May 28, 2010

Family Research Council's Tony Perkins Condemns U.S. House Vote To End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Claims Military Chaplains Could Be Impacted

On May 28th, 2010, CNN reports that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has criticized the vote by the U.S. House to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy on gay servicemembers as part of H.R. 5136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. One of his primary concerns brought out in the report was the possibility of restricting religious liberty of many servicemembers, including military chaplains.

But first, some facts and figures about the bill and the vote. According to the New York Times, the bill does not mandate repeal of DADT, but merely allows the Defense Department to end the ban against openly-professing gays 60 days after military leaders receive a report on the ramifications of allowing openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve and certify that doing so would not disrupt the armed forces. Although most media outlets initially reported it as a 234-194 vote, the New York Times reports that the final vote was 229-186, with 17 abstaining. You can view the roll call vote graphically by state HERE, or the standard list HERE, to see how your House member voted. As expected, Alaska's sole house member Don Young, being pressed in a primary fight against conservatives Sheldon Fisher and John Cox, voted No.

Now, back to Tony Perkins. Perkins, a retired Marine, told CNN, “You have over 200 sponsoring organizations that may be prevented from sponsoring chaplains because they hold orthodox Christian views that will be in conflict with what the military says is stated policy...Most people don’t understand the military environment. It’s not like going to work at 8 o’clock in the morning, it’s 24-7. The strains - especially right now where you have people in one enlistment doing multiple tours of duty overseas - the strain on the family, the strain on the marriages... those chaplains don’t just preach, they counsel as well and we may see them forced out of the military, then who is going to be there to help those men and women who are sacrificing so much.”

Perkins did not explain how precisely the religious liberties of servicemembers could be impaired by repeal. Perhaps he envisions that chaplains who include Biblical verses critical of homosexuality during their religious services might be disciplined. Or perhaps he anticipates that in a dispute between a gay and a straight servicemember rooming together in barracks, the authorities may tilt in favor of the gay servicemember just because he or she is gay.

Perkins also published two press releases critical of the House vote on the Family Research Council website. The first release expressed concern about the religious liberty issue, while accusing the Obama Administration and Congress of "using the military to advance a radical social agenda". Further fueling this speculation is a recent decision to allow women to serve aboard submarines. In the second release, Perkins bluntly accused the hard left of the Democratic Party, led by President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, of placing a political constituency with a radical agenda - the homosexual lobby - ahead of the well-being of our servicemembers, and cited a recent Zogby poll which showed that respondents, by a three to one margin, believe that military leaders should make this decision rather than Congress.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was originally crafted by the Clinton Administration back in 1993 as a compromise move. It was designed to allow gay servicemembers who desired to keep their homosexuality discrete to continue to serve, while identifying and removing drama queens like Leonard Matlovich who merely wanted to use their military service as a platform to promote homosexuality as a desirable alternative. Unfortunately, military authorities cast their nets a bit too wide and started purging discrete gays who were involuntarily outed through the involvement of third parties. One of the most outrageous cases was that of USAF Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who in the process of attempting to clear himself from being accused of a crime, confessed to local police that he was gay. Local police notified authorities at Mountain Home AFB, and the Air Force began separation proceedings because of "violating" DADT.

We don't need to junk DADT; we just need to re-define it more narrowly to protect gay servicemembers against being separated simply because they were involuntarily outed through third party involvement. Despite one's attitude towards homosexuality, it is ludicrous to expect all gays to remain celibate throughout their entire lives.

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