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November 12, 2010

Supreme Court Won't Stop Enforcement Of DADT While Lower Courts Thrash It Out

At Hot Air, it's not a big surprise. Ed Morrissey explains why this was a good practical decision (and therefore not a major tip as to how the Court would rule on the merits themselves):

Service members who revealed their orientation might put themselves in position for expulsion if the Supreme Court eventually overturned the ruling. The military would have had a monumental headache in dealing with openly gay recruits who enlisted during that period of time if DADT was upheld — and without any action from Congress, the Pentagon would have been legally obligated to enforce those consequences.

There is a certain unseemliness in all this. Liberal-leaning people (socially liberal, even if otherwise conservative) campaign to get the the law changed to allow gays to serve openly.

But it is not, in the main, socially liberal people who actually sign up for the military. No, it is the socially conservative people who tend to fill our military.

So to some extent I feel that a lot of people are offering strong opinions about the conduct and entry requirements of an organization they refuse to join, basically overruling the opinions of those who keep the organization going.

There is a challenge to that line of argument, though: There are gay service members willing to join (eager, in some cases) and their voices should be heard on this, of course. They've earned that right.

Still, what's it like, 40% of Marines who object to changing the policy? That is not a majority (in fact, most in the military think a change would either be positive, or have mixed results, or have no effect, including, apparently, in the Marines). But that is a big minority.

I don't think there's any way to stop this train (and perhaps it shouldn't be stopped). But I am a worried about the pure numbers here -- if allowing gays to serve openly in the military means that many more who would otherwise volunteer to serve don't volunteer, well, our experiment in changing social norms will have a detrimental consequence on the military's mission.

Let's say the people who don't want gays to serve openly are, as their angrier left-wingier critics would have it, homophobic, backwards, bigoted, etc. Let's concede all that, for the sake of this point. Here's what they also are: Ready to lay down their lives in defense of their country.

There is no avoiding the connection between traditionalist values about homosexuality and traditionalist values about service in the armed forces. The Venn circles here have a lot of overlap. And it is hard to avoid seeing the Venn circle of latitudinarian/secularist/progressive views on homosexuality having little overlap with the circle of those willing to volunteer for armed service.

People can have opinions on the military, despite not serving in it; but I do think it's unseemly for many critics of this policy to not have an appropriate level of concern for the beliefs and values of those actually in uniform, and speak as if only their values should carry weight. If only their values carried weight, we'd have a draft, because we sure wouldn't have enough volunteers for military service.

And I don't think critics of the policy are giving sufficient thought to what may happen in many of the people inclined to military service decide it no longer represents their values.

Critics may say "But that puts the government behind a policy of discrimination!" Possibly, yeah; there is a strong argument that that's the case. And maybe the end of DADT will turn out to be a big nothingburger (as the desegregation of the military was, mostly, despite similar concerns being voiced at the time).

Still. The guys who make up the club should have most of the say about the rules of the club. I really doubt that many of the policy's critics are willing to sign up to make up for drops in recruitment, should that come to pass.

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posted by Ace at 03:27 PM

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