Retired Gay Officers Say Military’s Fears of Sexual Misconduct Unfounded
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Fears that allowing gays into the military would lead to widespread sexual misconduct are unfounded, since orientation is not the same as behavior, two homosexual former Army officers told Congress Tuesday.
″I was a soldier first. I didn’t join the Army to have a date,″ said retired Col. Karl Cropsey, a decorated officer who served two combat tours in Vietnam and kept his homosexuality secret during 23 years of service.
Cropsey told the House Armed Service Committee that the vast majority of homosexuals do not make an issue of their sexual orientation around people at work. If the military’s 50-year-old ban of homosexuals is lifted, he said, ″controlling one’s sexual behavior is not likely to be any issue. Sexual orientation does not equal sexual conduct.″
Tanya Domi, a retired Army captain who kept her homosexuality secret for 15 years, said gays have served for years and there is no documented evidence of anyone’s life being endangered by their service.
Both noted that the recent incidents of sexual misconduct have involved heterosexuals, as in the case of the Tailhook Convention in which more than 80 women said they were sexually abused or harassed by Navy officers.
Unlike several Senate Armed Services Committee hearings that have largely focused on abstract analysis from academics, the House panel heard from retired rank-and-file military and religious representatives.
The Senate panel, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that it would hold a related hearing at the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia on May 10.
President Clinton has announced his intention to lift the ban and directed Defense Secretary Les Aspin to draw up an executive order by July 15. The action touched off fierce opposition.
The emotional and political difficulties of the issue were reflected in lawmakers’ comments. Rep. G.V. ″Sonny″ Montgomery, D-Miss., said he was unsure whether proponents of lifting the ban could win in Congress and urged a compromise that would allow the military to get back to training people.
Rep. Dave McCurdy, D-Okla., said he had spoken to the president, military leaders and members of Congress exploring a possible compromise, involving a strict code of conduct.
Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Charles Jackson, representing the 160,000-member Non-Commissioned Officers Association of the United States of America, said morale in the armed forces is fragile and could be destroyed by lifting the ban.
″Recruiting and retention of homosexuals would force upon others tolerance of a lifestyle many consider abnormal and totally unacceptable,″ Jackson told the panel.
A retired Army chaplain, Brig. Gen. Jim Hutchens, said allowing avowed homosexuals to serve with those whose religious and moral teaching oppose the practice is unfair.
Hutchens said it would be ″cynically insensitive and result in a concentrated attempt to squash and suppress the religious values of that morality.″
In his testimony, Jackson took exception with the comparison that the opposition to lifting the ban is similar to the fierce reaction in the 1940s to President Truman’s plan to integrate the armed forces.
Homosexuality, unlike race, is a behavioral characteristic, Jackson said.
Retired Army Col. Lucian Truscott III, a 30-year infantry veteran whose father was a four-star, World War II general, recalled the arrival of 14 blacks to his unit in Korea, hours before a firefight.
Truscott said if the soldiers has been polled, 95 percent would have said they didn’t want blacks. But in the battle, the only concern was ability to fight.
″We don’t care if he’s white or black or brown or red or yellow. We don’t care if he’s Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist. ... We wouldn’t even care if he was a she,″ Truscott said.
Truscott said he was not gay and had no particular expertise on the issue. But ″The issue before you isn’t about gays. It’s about equality, equal rights,″ he said.