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Homosexuals in the Military?

Gregory Koukl

This point relates to privacy as a policy issue and it doesn't relate to morality at all.

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Also See Banks vs. Boy Scouts.. Yes--the Boy Scouts are discriminatory and prejudiced. But what's wrong with that?

The particular point that I want to make right now is a point that relates to privacy as a policy issue and it doesn't relate to morality at all. That's why I think it's really cogent or important. The thought came to me when I was listening to KABC Ken and Barclay and someone raised the issue about being uncomfortable with being in the shower with a homosexual. Ken said, "Well, he's not going to touch you. You don't have to worry about that." It occurred to me to ask Ken, "Is it okay if I take a shower with your wife as long as I don't touch her?"

The rationale behind this kind of thinking or questioning is that Ken Minyard's wife has a certain expectation of privacy that goes far beyond whether one is physically harassed or not. In the same way, when a person joins the military he or she has a reasonable expectation of sexual privacy. For example, when a woman joins the military she has reason to believe that a ranking male officer will not enter her barracks or living quarters where she may be in various stages of undress, or enter the latrine, or enter the showers. Why? Because he is a male and she is a female and, more to the point, females are the object of male sexual attraction.

Now it does not seem to matter whether he harasses her by making a proposition or reaches out and touches her. The fact that he is present when she is in various stages of undress is a violation of her sexual privacy because she has a reasonable expectation that she can be in an environment where she does not have to worry about somebody thinking about her, or looking at her, in a lewd or sexual way.

Obviously, to some degree we can't control that entirely. Men are still prone to think what they will think and leer when they're inclined to leer, but I think that it's interesting to note that even in that situation when a woman is in public and sexual privacy is not an issue, it's still considered impolite to gawk. In other words, this issue of sexual privacy is so important to us that it influences us in our mores even in the public realm. Now, there are places where women can go where they don't have to worry about that. This is precisely why many women choose to work out at a health club with separate facilities for men and women.

If this is obvious to us in a heterosexual environment, in other words, if we think it appropriate to protect our sexual privacy, the same considerations should apply for men and women who might be exposed to a homosexual environment. In other words, women should be protected in their sexual privacy not only from men who would be sexually attracted to them, but also women that would be sexually attracted to them. Men should have an expectation of privacy, such that they don't have to be concerned that some man is going to be looking at him with sexual interest while they're showering or sitting on the commode or changing clothes.

Another point, to get back to Ken Minyard's comment "he's not going to touch you...", I have no confidence that in that environment a homosexual wouldn't touch me. Simply put, men are sexually aggressive and homosexual males, on balance, are more aggressive than most men. Some may take exception with this but bath houses and statistics prove otherwise. Men are sexually aggressive; homosexual men more so.

So I think that men who are in the military should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Now, does that discriminate against homosexuals? Absolutely, and this is a good thing. This discrimination in the good sense of the word. This is a point worth clarifying.

The word "discrimination" is not a bad word. Discrimination is a good. It's one of those words that has a terrible connotation but actually refers to something very good, even vital. Discrimination is one of those good "bad" words. It's at the core of everything that is good and right and true. Culture cannot advance, progress cannot be made, morals and values cannot be clarified, the human lot cannot be improved and human flourishing cannot proceed without discrimination.

In virtually every decision we make we discriminate. We choose between alternatives because there is one circumstance that is better than another, one answer that is more correct than another, one alternative that is superior to another. It's appropriate for us to choose or discriminate. You make a discrimination every time you listen to me. You could have listened to someone else. You could have chosen not to listen at all. Even now you can turn me off, but if you do so you will be making another type of discrimination.

Even in choosing our friends we're discriminating. Those choices will be made on very personal, subjective grounds and sometimes on moral grounds. These are good things to do and our sympathy to this notion reflects another very important factor in this discussion: our right of association. We have a right as free individuals to associate with the kind of people we want to associate with. We hire the people that impress us. We hang out with friends that have a good sense of humor or are pleasant to be around. We choose roommates we can get along with and who don't offend us--morally with obnoxious values or physically with obnoxious body odors or living habits.

Some types of discrimination are illegal, and should be. Human beings should not be disqualified from participation simply because of some unchosen, unchangeable or benign trait like gender, skin color or ethnicity.

It's clear that homosexuality is not a benign issue. There is some question about whether it's inherent or unchangeable, whether nature or nurture is involved in that. I don't think a person says at one point in time "I choose to be homosexual," but people choose to pursue or nurture a particular proclivity or, if you don't like the pejorative term, a tendency.

At some time in my life I may feel an attraction for a nine-year-old girl. What do I do with that? Do I pursue that or let it lie? I could nurture it and develop it or I could ignore it and try to develop another sense of sexual identity. The point I'm making is that I'm not stuck with a desire for the rest of my life just because I may have a moment of attraction for a nine-year-old girl. There is some sense in which it seems that we nurture our own sexual identity. Our sexual identity is not a benign issue. It influences everything.

Secondly, in some measure it is arguably an issue of nurturing a particular sexual tendency that a person has control over, and how he conducts himself in regard to that sexual tendency. So there's a lot of personal choice involved here, even if there may be some nature issues (which I'm not conceding here) that seem to cause a person to be homosexually attracted to someone else. Again, the jury is still out on that. I'm not willing to grant that, but even if I did it's not the whole picture.

If this is the case, then it seems to me that people have an appropriate and legitimate right of association. That right should not be violated. People have a right to privacy, sexual privacy in this particular case. You should not be forced to associate with people who, first of all, have a tendency towards behavior that has significant social ramifications, second, that you think is patently immoral and that will be morally offended, and third, violates your reasonable expectation of privacy.

I realize that some people think that this is an inappropriate discrimination, a type of forcing my morality on others. My response to that is that there is no way to escape that. To illustrate this point one only has to consider what's going on right now in Colorado. In Colorado the people voted and the majority decided that they did not want any special consideration given to homosexuals. That's the issue there, by the way. It's been touted as an anti-gay law. It's not anti-gay. It's a constitutional amendment that actually guarantees equality . Everybody gets the same rights. Everybody has the same civil rights and protections and everybody has the same vulnerability to individual choices. What has been the response since this equal rights amendment has been passed? (I like that--the Colorado equal rights amendment.) A big boycott. This whole process is really interesting to me because Barbara Streisand called for the boycott saying we should not go to Colorado because the "moral climate is no longer acceptable." Then what did she ask us to do? She asked the rest of the country to discriminate against Colorado based on the immorality of their decision. Somebody tell me how her action is any different than what Colorado is doing, other than that she is on the right side (or the left side) of the political spectrum? It's exactly the same. She says, "We have a moral concern, therefore we're going to discriminate." She's not only choosing to do so for herself but puts out the clarion call for everybody to discriminate against Colorado, against the people of Colorado, and therefore punish them for their own moral discernment and moral concerns.

So the point is that discrimination based on moral distinctives is not only the problem of the right wing moralists. Everybody does it. I would say that we have a right to do it. But what they say is, "You can't discriminate based on your moral concerns, but I can discriminate based on mine." I say let's just open up the field and say we all should be able to discriminate based on moral concerns because discrimination is a good word and it relates to our individual freedoms. There are particular types of discrimination that are utterly inappropriate, discrimination over a benign characteristic like race or gender.

By the way, when the characteristic is not benign, when a person's gender, for example, is not benign, like in the use of toilet facilities, then we do discriminate. So in those situations where the distinction is not chosen and when it's benign, then it's inappropriate to discriminate because that's bigotry. But in other areas we should learn how to discriminate and learn how to discriminate well.

Incidentally, there is no inalienable human right that a person has to serve in the military. It's not that kind of an organization. It's there for a particular purpose. The military has a history of making discriminations appropriate to their task and mission

What of all those who joined the military with the expectation that there would be no homosexuals to have to deal with? This argument would fail if two situations obtained. One, the military would have to agree to billet homosexuals separately. (Though that would be pretty tough in combat situations, the same problem there would be if women were allowed in combat. There would actually have to be four billeting options, one each for heterosexuals and homosexuals of either sex. Unless homosexual men and homosexual women were billeted together; I guess that wouldn't be a problem.) Second, all those who enlisted before homosexuals were allowed into the military would have the option to muster out.

It used to be that a person who was a discriminating thinker was someone who was wise and sound and careful. We ought not erase that distinction.

At least that's the way I see it.

©1993 Gregory Koukl This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only.


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