Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the controversial ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that effectively prohibits openly homosexual persons from serving in the U.S. military. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the repeal legislation last week by a similarly strong 250-175 vote. Having now been passed by both houses of Congress, the bill proceeds to President Barack Obama (D) who is expected to sign it into law.
I have discussed my views on this policy before, first in April of last year and then again back in October of this year. Without restating everything I discussed in those pieces and many others on the broader subject of homosexuality, it is worth reiterating the basics for the benefit of any new readers.
First, morally and religiously speaking, homosexual activity is sinful. I emphasize the word activity because simply being homosexual is not, in and of itself, wrong or immoral. Prevailing opinion in both the scientific and mainstream theological communities is that the vast majority homosexual persons have not chosen their attractions, and that they were either born homosexual or developed that way early in life. As such, it would be grossly unfair (and immoral) to condemn them for it, or discriminate against them for it.
Having said that, being born with (or developing) a tendency to do something does not automatically make it moral to actually do it! The attraction is not a choice, however everybody (gay, straight, or other) chooses whether to act on their attractions, and those choices can be moral or immoral. As an example, a married straight man who chooses to follow his natural attractions to somebody other than his wife has also sinned, even though his action could easily be defined as ‘natural,’ ‘something we see elsewhere in the animal kingdom,’ ‘an inborn tendency,’ ‘part of the healthy spectrum of human sexuality,’ etc., etc. Why do so many demand that society affirm one action while condemning the other?
But this discussion of the rights and wrongs of the matter is a side issue when it comes to public policy. Following the aforementioned example, should the man who cheats on his spouse be denied the opportunity to serve in the U.S. military if he so desires? Of course not. His extramarital sexual escapades and preferences are simply not germane to whether he is fit to serve, and die for, his country. The same applies to homosexual persons who wish to serve in the military; their sexuality is simply not relevant. Under the U.S. Constitution, the role of the federal government is to allow people the greatest possible personal and economic freedoms. This includes allowing us the freedom to do things that are immoral (provided they do not harm other, non-consenting parties [like, say, unborn human children]).
I don’t think anybody who really thinks it through, whether conservative or liberal, really wants the government in the business of policing private morality. Whose morality will it enforce? How long before your opinions, or your religion, or your activities are the ones that the state declares immoral and illegal? Maybe today it’s outlawing homosexual sex. Maybe tomorrow it’s outlawing allegiance to the Bishop of Rome; or maybe it’s requiring that everybody have allegiance to the Bishop of Rome. Maybe the next day it’s prohibiting meaningless Socialist-style political slogans (‘Yes We Can!’). Maybe the next day it’s prohibiting media critique of government action. Maybe the next day it’s telling you what to eat, where to sleep, and what health insurance plan to buy (oh, wait . . . ). Where do we draw the line?
Having a pretty strong ‘libertarian’ streak, I don’t want the government making any of these determinations. If my actions don’t have any undue impact on others (and, again, unborn human children are others), then they are my business and not the state’s. I will make those decisions myself, in accordance with my own personal moral and religious beliefs, as long as I am free to do so. I expect the same standard to be applied to everybody else, even if I personally abhor some of their decisions.
It is in this context that I have opposed the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, and am pleased with its presumptive repeal. There is no reason for the state to exclude openly homosexual persons from military service, morality aside, in a free, democratic republic.