On March 15, people picketed a New York City recruiting station in response to, among other things, Gen. Peter Pace's comments. Courtesy of Renna Communications.
On March 12, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, triggered a national reaction when he told The Chicago Tribune that he believed that homosexuality is immoral. He also equated same-sex acts with adultery in response to a question about the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ( DADT ) policy, which does not allow openly gay personnel to serve in the military.
'I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts,' Pace told the Chicago Tribune. 'I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it's OK to be immoral in any way.'
Pace also said, 'As an individual, I would not want [ acceptance of gay behavior ] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior.'
He has since refused to apologize for his remarks, although he did say that he regretted stating them.
Here in Chicago, James Darby—the president of the Chicago chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, and someone who served in the Korean War—said, 'I took great umbrage to his remarks, because I thought to myself 'Who are you'? I was very angry. … I was drafted into the Army to serve this country. I served for four years and I served honorably, and I believe that I did a very good job. I get upset when anyone denigrates the service of an American veteran, gay or straight. … His beliefs have nothing to do with his position.'
Jean Albright, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and a20-year Air Force veteran, said, 'The fact that he's a military leader magnifies it. You expect that thing maybe from an impressionable young kid. If that attitude exists in the leadership, that kind of promotes the climate of harassment. It's both a reflection of the policy and it promotes the policy; it's hurt on top of hurt.'
She added, 'They're already setting aside their personal lives, making commitments to keep themselves ready to fight, to risk their lives. They already have this hanging over their heads—the threat of both harassment and the loss of their career. They're already put in the position where they have to distance themselves from people they live with and work with. They have to lie.'
Even before Pace uttered his beliefs, many people questioned the morality of a policy that tells people to lie and promotes mistrust.
The DADT policy has been criticized since President Clinton signed it into law in 1993. Recently, criticism has been linked to troop shortages and the need for gay and lesbians who are willing and able to serve to be allowed to do so.
Retired Army General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reversed his opinion on DADT earlier this year, citing this exact reason for his reversal.
Albright said, 'There is no way to know how many people never sign up in the first place, or who can't bear to re-enlist. Some studies say that there are 41,000 people in the age group ready, willing and able to sign up.'
Darby is an example of what having to hide costs the military. 'I really loved my job,' he said. 'I would have stayed in, but I knew that I would not last for 20 years as a gay person. I couldn't do it.'
According to SLDN, more than 11,000 troops have been discharged under DADT.
While the government continues to stress the importance of national security and wining the war in Iraq, 54 Arabic specialists have been discharged under DADT.
Albright said that $361 million have been spent for DADT-related costs, including recruiting and training replacements for those discharged under the policy.
Presently, Congress will reconsider DADT. Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., introduced legislation that would allow openly gay military members to serve. The bill has bipartisan support; in fact, it has more support than any gay and lesbian related bill has ever had.
Presidential candidate Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has stood by Pace, saying, 'I do not believe being homosexual is immoral, but I do believe homosexual acts are. I'm a Catholic and the church has clear teachings on this.'
Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Sammon said, 'General Pace's remarks that homosexuality is 'immoral' is an unnecessary affront to 65,000 brave gay and lesbian members of the armed forces fighting on the front lines in the war on terror. Studies have shown—and most Americans agree—that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is weakening our national security and undermining the war on terror.'
Many people and organizations are demanding an apology from Pace, including the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) . 'Chairman Pace should apologize immediately to the tens of thousands of gay and lesbian service members who are making huge sacrifices and risking their lives every day to protect our country. He has flatly refused to do so,' said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
The general population does not believe gay and lesbian service members should be prohibited from openly serving in the military. According to a poll by The Boston Globe, 79 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military.
Both Albright ( director of new media at Windy City Media Group ) and Darby stated that the changes in the newer generations are the same in and out of the military, and a CNN/USA/Gallup poll also showed that 91 percent of Americans aged 18-29 support allowing gays to openly serve.