May 19th, 2010
08:17 PM ET

For allies, integrating gays in military easier done than said

The U.S. and its military allies agree on many things, from the size of bullets for their rifles to the design of future fighter jets. But on the issue of gays in the military, the U.S. stands alone among the Western allies.

Representatives from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Israel and the Netherlands gathered Wednesday at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, to describe how the militaries in those countries handled allowing homosexuals to serve openly in their militaries. The consensus was that, in spite of concerns before the change, when gays and lesbians were allowed to serve, it was a non-issue.

"I did not see one case at any level when homosexuals did not get along with other soldiers. The problems are among men and women," said Maj. Gen. Walter Semianiw, an infantry officer in the Canadian military. "This is not an issue for our country."

"We know the U.S. as a country that favors the individual rights, freedom, giving the people the opportunity to flourish in their life," said Col. Kees Matthijssen of the Royal Dutch Army. "From that perspective it's still very strange the U.S. is still having a kind of ban on openly having gays and lesbians in the military."

"There were concerns in the late '90s of gay men walking across the gangplank in feather boas and high heels," said retired Lt. Cmdr. Craig Jones of the British Royal Navy. "That just did not happen."

Jones said British military officials saw an unexpected benefit of allowing gays to serve openly - better retention of qualified soldiers and sailors in key positions. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the British military had a 6 percent to 8 percent gap in unfilled positions. Now it's down to the 2 percent to 3 percent range.
Jones said one reason for that is the new policy allowing gays to serve.
Now that gays are able to serve, military recruiters in the United Kingdom have more volunteers to choose from, Jones said. Also, having children is often cited by British troops as one reason why they leave the military in their late 20s or 30s. And Jones said because gays and lesbians are less likely to become parents, they tend to stay in the military longer.

During a recent Congressional hearing on the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell," policy, retired NATO Commander Gen. John Sheehan testified that he believed that the Dutch military's policy of allowing gays to serve was in part to blame for the Dutch military's failure to halt the massacre of Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

"They declared a peace dividend and made a conscious effort to socialize their military," Sheehan testified in March. "That includes the unionization of their militaries. It includes open homosexuality demonstrated in a series of other activities."

"That led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war. The case-in-point that I'm referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was under-strength, poorly led," Sheehan said.

Sheehan later backtracked on his testimony, but it still grates on the Dutch.

"I was in Srebrenica myself, I was a company commander, I was there. I had a full professional company," Matthijssen of the Dutch army told CNN.

"The homosexual, sexuality that he (Sheehan) suggested would have affected that unit, that is absolutely not the case."

Matthijssen added, "There was good cohesion within the unit, the unit was effective. But the unit was put in a place - based on political decisions within the U.N., within the international community - with too (few) troops, too few means, not the mandate to really fight and overwhelm ... That's what really happened."

Matthijssen insisted allowing gays to serve openly has made the Royal Dutch Army better.

"We're much more effective because we have an organizational culture and climate that people know that they can tell about who they are, and that's what we encourage," he said.

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Filed under: Gay and lesbian • Military
soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Georgia Marine

    Yes, Aranhas, when I think of "cooking, washing and cleaning," I think of the Israeli Army. Get real. If one of the most professional, effective and successful armies in the world (i.e., Israel's) has openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in combat, I think any serious argument ends there. Time to let our fellow citizens serve openly in our military, and move on.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bama

    I see you folks have everything under control!

    May 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. j

    I dont want to see Ru Paul with an m-16 it's just not right.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMN

      "There were concerns in the late '90s of gay men walking across the gangplank in feather boas and high heels," said retired Lt. Cmdr. Craig Jones of the British Royal Navy. "That just did not happen."

      I think you secretly WANt to see it though.

      May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie

      How racists!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WhatTheDevilWouldSay

    "Hey, thanks, CNN! All of us malicious spirits roaming the earth seeking the ruin of souls really appreciate your unwaivering support on every front. It's a big help to us having you in our army. See you at roll call! Bring your friends."

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    GET RELIGION OUT OF THE MILITARY. Evangelical christians... they hate anyone that isn't like them that can't be proselytized. BAN RELIGION. Stop enforcing the beliefs of a certain few, forcing everyone else follow backwards beliefs.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    I'm gay, Aranhas, and I'm willing to bet that just about any one of my gay friends who is your age (whatever that is) would kick your sorry butt in a fair man-to-man fight. (Fair fight–that means you don't get to use your gun, or whatever else makes you feel like a man.)

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ding

    If you think we've got hazing problems now, repeal DODT and see how bad it gets

    May 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Erik

    This is one of the last acceptable bastions of prejudice. As the article state, military after military has shown that there are no real detrimental effects to allowing gays in the military. America, who prides itself on freedom and individuality is shamefully behind the time on this. We used to argue that blacks could not be allowed in the military and no white man could be expected to take orders from blacks. That argument is simply the powers that be trying to justify the status quo. The standard should be, "Does a particular soldier meet the requirements in order to perform his duties, and does he or she do so in a professional manner?" Who a soldier sleeps with or socializes with in their free time is nobody's damn business. Whether people believe it or not, gays have always served honorably in the military, and continue to do so. The US Army stands to gain a lot by letting these people be themselves in their off-duty time.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Derek

    As a former military member, and someone who obviously believes themselves to be a true U.S. patriot, I can't fathom how you can be so openly bigoted against another group of people. The very country you're so proud of is founded on the belief that everyone is created equal. Apparently, for you, everyone is created equal only if they're created to be like you.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ding

    No Mark you wouldn't win, you'd bend over and take it like a gay man

    May 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Actually, ding, I mostly give it. (Ordinarily I wouldn't tell you, but obviously you enjoy picturing it in your little mind, so there's something for you to work with tonight.)

      May 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JP

    the problem that some straight men have with gay men in the military is that you're afraid you're now going to be treated the same way you treat women.

    and let me quote what balhblah said, "youre threatened by "a gay"? Tough soldier you are.".

    May 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ricardo S.

    Aranhas, I am pretty sure Canada, Germany, and Great Britain fight alongside US troops in Afghanistan. I've seen them with my own eyes and I was always impressed. You should stop being so ignorant. The stupidity of people like you will destroy our country.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tim

    Wow, we really stirred up the gay hornet's nest here tonight! Mark – not sure what your "fighting" experience is, but there is no such thing as a "fair" fight. Gay or straight doesn't make a good fighter (or soldier).

    May 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jon

    Oh my God just freaking say yes already! I'm not gay, but I'm going to join the marines pretty soon. I mean who are we kidding the gays and lesbians act so wierd and it makes us angry when they do, but what harm will they do to the military. They're not going to make the military gay-er if thats what you're implying. These brave men and women want to fight and die for our country, then it would be an honor to fight along side them. Hoorah!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • JP

      "I mean who are we kidding the gays and lesbians act so wierd and it makes us angry when they do, but what harm will they do to the military."

      Maybe you should defer your enlistment and let the educated folks do the work.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kick the Hetero D bag

      Funny, we gays tend to think you heteros act weird, with all your divorce, child abuse, cheating and lying and leading the country down a path of abysmal failure. If gay people ran this government we'd still be a super power, but thats what happens when idiots are allowed to breed with impunity. As for fighting in the military...have you ever seen a queen brawl with a queen?....al qaeda would run like school girls (along with some us servicemen who very often seem to get sticky fingers when left alone with gays..how hetro!) You straight people are such a freaking joke.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DAS

    IS THERE A "DON'T ASK, DON'T TOUCH" POLICY?!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

      No, but there IS a don't ask dumb questions policy that you violate with regularity.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
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