Marine Gen. Peter Pace says repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would be promoting ‘immorality’
by John Marble
‘I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that [the military] should not condone immoral acts.’
— Marine Gen. Peter Pace
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pentagon's top general has expressed regrets that he called homosexuality immoral, a remark that drew a harsh condemnation from members of Congress and gay advocacy groups.
In a newspaper interview in early March, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, compared same-sex attraction to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.
In a statement issued in the days that followed, he said he should have focused more in the interview on the Defense Department policy about gays — and “less on my personal moral views.”
At press time he had yet to offer an apology, something that had been demanded by gay rights groups
“We expect President [George W.] Bush to condemn these remarks out of respect for our men and women who are currently serving and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Jo Wyrick, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. “It is immoral to send our servicemembers into battle without the proper equipment or plan. It is immoral to deny them proper medical care upon their return and it is immoral to revoke support for our troops based on this misguided policy reaffirmed by Gen. Pace and the White House.”
Other LGBT human rights groups were quick to respond to Pace’s comments.
“Judging gay men and women in the military for factors unrelated to their fitness to serve undermines our military’s effectiveness,” said Eric Alva, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. “Bigotry should not be a rational basis for discrimination. This kind of prejudice is going to continue to have a direct impact on our national security as we allow qualified gay men and women to lose their jobs for no good reason.”
Even frequent supporters of the Bush Administration, like the Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization for LGBT Republicans, voiced their displeasure over Pace’s comments.
“General Pace’s remarks that homosexuality is ‘immoral’ is an unnecessary affront to the 65,000 brave gay and lesbian members of the armed forces fighting on the front lines in the war on terror,” said Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon. “General Pace’s remarks are out of touch with most Americans and the majority of men and women on the ground serving under his leadership.”
The Michael D. Palm Center, formerly the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, actually saw somewhat of a silver lining around the gray cloud of Pace’s pronouncement.
“This might be the beginning of the end,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center. “But it may be a long, drawn-out ending.”
“That statement more or less ended the debate over unit cohesion,” said Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the Palm Center. “[And has] forced the voices opposed to gay service to revert to moral dogma. But there is really no basis for excluding an entire group of people simply because some of the military has a moral problem with those people.
“If it doesn’t translate into military impairment, they’ll probably need to just grin and bear it. No one ever said that, when you serve your country, you’re entitled to choose everyone you serve with.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was passed by Congress in 1993 after a firestorm of debate in which advocates argued that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would hurt troop morale and recruitment and undermine the cohesion of combat units.
John Shalikashvili, the retired Army general who was Joint Chiefs chairman when the policy was adopted, said in January that he has changed his mind on the issue since meeting with gay servicemen.
“These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers,” Shalikashvili wrote in a newspaper opinion piece.