How Will the Military Integrate Openly Gay Soldiers?

It won't be quick, or easy

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After an exhaustive Pentagon study, surveys of tens of thousands of servicemembers, hundreds of hours of congressional testimony, and 17 years of intense public debate, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has been repealed. Now the practical work begins. How will the military weave openly gay soldiers into the ranks?

It won't be seamless, and it won't be instant, The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports. What happens if a religious recruiter says he won't process a gay kid who wants to join up? What if soldier hates her lesbian roommate? What if two soldiers wearing civies are spotted cuddling at the mall? The Defense Department outlined plans for dealing with such problems in an "at times explicit" 87-page report.. It has no timeline, though, for implementing the policy after President Obama likely signs the repeal into law this week.

Officials want to get it done next year, after training commanders and combat units. The Pentagon won't allow separate bathrooms for gays, but commanders will be allowed to make changes in response to privacy requests in individual cases. How exactly to respond to such a request is not explained--commanders are encouraged to "keep it simple." Until the gay ban is officially ended, though, gay soldiers can technically still be discharged if they out themselves.

  • We Can't  Disregard Military Culture--Including Its Sense of Superiority, Newsweek's John Barry writes. Having an all-volunteer force has created "a military of unsurpassed skill. But it has also brought a belief widespread in the officer corps that the military is not merely different from American society at large, but also superior to it in its regard for truth, honor, loyalty and discipline--a conviction that too easily spreads to disapproving views about civilian society's 'values.'" Officers respect civilian leadership, "but the gulf between the military and civilian society is real; and it has widened through almost 10 years of grueling wars in pursuit of goals hotly disputed by America's civilian political leaders." The upshot:
Demanding that the military now accept openly gay soldiers will strike many in the military, whatever their personal views, as an imposition by civilians who have never served and who don’t appreciate the military's uniqueness. Precisely for that reason, it could be argued, the decision to repeal DADT is a good one. It reminds the military that they should be representative of the society they are sworn to defend. But only an optimist would expect the decision to be implemented without a struggle.
  • More to Regulate  DADT was meant "to balance two competing realities," The American Spectator's W. James Antle, III writes. "Many individual homosexuals serve honorably and effectively in the military even as, all other things being equal, open homosexuality as such is a disruptive force, just as individual women have served honorably and effectively even as their integration has in many respects been a disruptive force. Now instead of trying to avoid the incidence of sexual attraction within the armed forces, there will have to be myriad rules and regulations trying to cope with its consequences."
  • No One Will Actually Be Kicked Out for Being Gay Pending Policy Implementation, NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski reports. "The reality is ... that under the more stringent guidelines for enforcement of the law implemented in October, there have been no servicemembers discharged from the military. So it would be unlikely that anyone would be forced out of the military during the certification process."
  • Look at How Women Were Integrated, Time's Mark Thompsonnotes. "I can recall the tirades against opening up more billets to women some 20 years ago. There was a special commission set up to deal with the issue, and tensions ran high following the notorious Tailhook convention in 1991, where Navy aviators groped and sexually assaulted women at a Las Vegas hotel. That sad chapter finally pushed the Navy into action, and you could see it unfold the following year at its boot camp in Orlando, where men and women began training together for the first time." Commanders eventually wondered why they didn't train men and women side by side much earlier. Now occasional gender-related problems only make news because the vast majority of men and women in uniform get along just fine.
  • Homophobia Will Remain a Reality  "In basic training, where all members of the services enter in, they are sequestered together in close quarters," McRanger writes. "I remember being in a shower with 20 other guys in basic training and actually feeling nothing of uncomfortableness. But then I wasn't aware if in my midst there was anybody gay there with us. ... However I could tell you that if there had been and it been known, it wouldn’t have been pretty. PC aside, it's just the fact of the situation. There would have been blood. True that was over thirty years ago and things have changed, but not by much."
  • Deleting the Sodomy Ban from Military Laws  "Pentagon leaders will have to write and adopt new laws regarding discussions of troops' personal lives, drop existing sodomy restrictions, and review regulations governing sexual harassment," Stars and Stripes' Leo Shane III reports. "But the report authors specifically advised against developing new rules regarding housing and bathroom facilities, noting that even if that wasn't financially unrealistic," it would be reminiscent of "separate but equal"  facilities for blacks in the Jim Crow era.
  • But Some Are Still Fixated on Group Showers, Politico's Jen Dimascio and Gordon Lubold report. "Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos, for example, may demand that physical modifications be made to accommodate concerns among some Marines about showering with other Marines who are serving openly."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.