Precede: NORFOLK, Va. Schwarzkopf Still Opposes Gays Serving Openly in Military
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf said today he accepts the current policy of not asking recruits about their sexual orientation but remains opposed to gays serving openly in the military.
″I have no objection to leaving the situation exactly where it is now,″ Schwarzkopf, who commanded U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf War, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
President Clinton directed the services in January to stop questioning recruits about whether they are homosexual. Bowing to pressure, Clinton instituted the interim policy while Defense Secretary Les Aspin draws up an executive order to end the 50-year-old ban on gays in the military.
The order is due July 15.
Schwarzkopf said he opposes ending the ban because it would hurt morale and the cohesion of military units.
″The armed services’ principle mission is not to be social experimentation,″ he said.
While Schwarzkopf was willing to accept the current policy, the three other witnesses on the panel were steadfastly opposed to any change in the prohibition.
Marine Corps Col. Fred Peck, who just returned after five months in Somalia, said he would counsel his three sons against joining the military if the ban is lifted.
In an explosive revelation, Peck said he would strongly oppose it in the case of his oldest son, Scott, a senior at the University of Maryland, because he feared for the boy, who he said is homosexual.
″I’m a father of a homosexual and I don’t think he should serve in the military,″ Peck told the panel.
Also testifying in support of the ban were Command Master Chief David Borne of the Navy and Maj. Kathleen Bergeron of the Marine Corps.
On Monday, members of the panel traveled to Norfolk, Va., where they visited several ships to sound out sailors who would have to serve with homosexuals if the ban is lifted.
From an aircraft carrier’s hangar deck to the torpedo room of a nuclear submarine, the message from most of the sailors was clear: Keep the ban.
″It’s the morals I was raised with and the morals I raised my children with,″ George Pickels, a 14-year Navy man who wears a tattoo of a bare- breasted woman, said aboard the carrier USS Kennedy.
Petty Officer James Walters, a crewman on the submarine USS Montpelier, said ″you’ve got a lot of people out there″ who favor lifting the ban. ″But they don’t know what it’s like down here,″ he said.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the panel, appeared particularly impressed by the cramped quarters and lack of privacy for crews that must spend months at sea.
″It really would just disrupt everything. Basically, we live on the ship, not just work on the ship,″ said Joe Degauttola, a seaman on the Kennedy.
After the tours, the senators listened to almost four hours of comments from Navy and Marine officers and enlisted personnel. Most of it was critical of the idea that the Pentagon’s stand against homosexuals is similar to past discrimination against blacks and women.
″It is not comparable to being black. It is not comparable to being a woman,″ said Cmdr. Lin Hutton, the Atlantic Fleet’s first woman aircraft squadron commander. ″It defines a lifestyle.″
Several speakers said allowing homosexuals to serve openly would undermine morale and wreck the trust and respect that military organizations rely on.
″We can’t fight each other,″ said Marine Sgt. Brian Jenisch, an infantry- trained squad leader. ″We have to fight what’s in front of us.″
But two of the speakers at the hearing challenged the notion that having homosexuals in the ranks would cause trouble.
″Gay people can control their sexual behavior,″ said Lt. j.g. Richard Dirk Selland, a former submarine officer who is undergoing discharge proceedings after disclosing that he is gay.
″No one joins the Navy to get a date,″ said Lt. j.g. Tracy Thorne, a former aviator also awaiting discharge for being gay. ″My sexuality is part of me, but it’s not all of me.″
Clinton, speaking Monday in Cleveland, said his differences with military leaders over lifting the ban were minimal. He said the Pentagon policy in the meantime - to stop asking recruits about their sexual orientation - ″solved most of the issue.″
The no-questions-asked policy may be a good compromise, suggested Nunn, who opposes lifting the ban. ″It seems to me that that temporary policy is about where we ought to end up,″ he said.