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. AJ

    Well, with all the real case studies out there from other countries, it's clear they're choosing to be idiots. So why should we let people in who live the idiot lifestyle? I think idiots in the military are a danger to unit cohesion and to our national defense. I can say that categorically.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      well put AJ, no more idiots in the military!

      May 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tim/Syracuse

    These negative arguments are almost complete duplicates of the ones which were used some 60 years ago to try to justify continued racial segregation in our military. Take a look at history - have we learned how wrong they were?

    May 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Tim/syracuse,
      yeah, sorry, I cut and pasted all those comments from 60 yrs ago. found them on an old blog. LOL

      May 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. AJ

    Idiots should be allowed in the military. They just can't be open about it. Sorry, Tim – no offence. My bad.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. valwayne

    Obama and the Democrats promised to end don't ask don't tell. They've had total control of the Government for 1 year and 1/2. They've passed massive bills like the stimulous bill like nearly overnight. They passed the healthcare bill with no Republican support and against the majority of the American people. They could have eliminated discrimination against gays in the military in a weekend. Yet Obama remains our Discriminator in Chief! The Democrats have put gay men and women to the back of the bus and betrayed their promises. Yet patsies in the gay community continue to provide money and support to the liars and betrayers! Even arch Republican VP Dick Cheney supports getting rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Civil Unions for gay men and woman. Yet Obama and the Democrats do NOTHING! Gay men and women should stop being patsies and stoodges for the Democrats. Not one Penny, Not ONE VOTE, until they've kept their promises. This is the 2nd time they've lied and betrayed us. They made the Same Promise when Clinton was elected....and they gave us "Don't ask, Don't tell. Don't let the abuse continue! Demand that the Democrats let us out of the back of the bus NOW!!!!

    May 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Super-Hero

    Why is it we only ever hear from the officers on this subject? Maybe the officers don't have to share their personal space, living quarters, showers, rooms. Living in the BAQ is a lot different than living in the "barracks". I seriously doubt things will run smooth in the combat arms brigades of the Army and Marine Corp if "open service were allowed"...

    You can't force someone to accept that being GAY is normal, nor can you force someone to tolerate their presence in communcal showers, bathrooms, field environments, pup tents..etc.

    Regardless of what the media may advocate or other groups with social agendas...a clear majority of folks consider being GAY morally wrong.

    I'm not here to discriminate against anyone...but oneone is going to force me to accept a GAY person in my foxhole, in my shower, in my bathroom, or accept them in situations were there is absolute no privacey, accept them as a room-mate, accept them as my battle buddy... absoutley not!

    Get off the social agenda and get back with reality.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bleux

      Do you even understand the definition of discrimination?

      May 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pmac

      You can force them, it's called an order. You follow them....not hard.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • K.E

      so if you did not know you would not have a problem sharing a foxhole etc. etc..Isn't that a kind of ostrich policy? Head in the sand kind of approach

      May 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      "I'm not here to discriminate against anyone..." There's not a single LGBT person (like myself) who would believe that statement after reading everything you said above it!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jenney

    It does not matter if the other countries are allowing this in their military or not. What matters is that we not allow it in ours. Condoning this type of behavior is like telling the Lord we don't want him anymore as God over America. If we tell him enough he will go but so will his blessing and protection... if it has not gone already.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pmac

      Religion has no place being in the making of military decisions.

      May 19, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      Why is it that this argument never gets used when felons enlist under the 'moral waivers' clause? You might wanna look that up – the people we've been OPENLY recruiting is far worse than any law abiding Gay or Lesbian.

      By your rhetoric, a man who barely graduated high school and guilty of something as bad as vehicular HOMICIDE is more pleasing to God than a law-abiding Gay man who graduated with honors? That's not the kind of God I wanna know, for sure!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. AJ

    Super-Hero. That's called a "straw man" argument. You set up a false premise (we only ever hear from the officers) and then shoot that down – implying you've got down the original topic. That's ok, it's a pretty common logical flaw.

    Please explain how the armies of Israel, Germany, and England are different in the soldier's sharing of their personal space.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Yossi & Jagger

    Hey, I'm from Israel and I proud to say that I made my six years of army service and I'm a gay. I had a gay soldier in my team and he was really great. It's about time that big mamma (America) let gays join the army and feel free and it's about time you all can talk about it and feel more open about it as we in Israel feel.

    P.S. – Yossi & Jagger is a film about a couple that met in the Israeli army and fell in love. I recommend you all to see.
    😉 enjoy

    May 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bleux

    "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
    -Abraham Lincoln

    May 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Super-Hero

    Why not allow femaies to serve in all job slots & units within the services? Why is this an issue? Why are females not subject to the draft?

    Personally don't care if a gay person is in the service, as long as they do their job, but don't ask me to share the same shower, or living quarters with them.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • JP

      you already are.

      May 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      And yet the Navy has announced that women can serve on submarines! The horror! /eyeroll

      May 20, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. AJ

    Jenney – should atheists be allowed in the military? How about those who don't believe that Christ is their Lord and Savoir? Condoning this type of behavior is like telling the Lord we don't want him anymore as God over America. If we tell him enough he will go but so will his blessing and protection... if it has not gone already. Or he may even cause our soldiers to die because of it. Welcome to the world of Reverend Phelps.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AJ

    Super-Hero – females are not allowed to serve because they've made a choice to be female.

    BTW: Good point JP. It's pretty clear that Super-Hero is not in the military.

    May 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jenney

    Dear AJ– please ask the Lord.. I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you. He's much more knowledgable than me.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rusteerooster

    Morally and financially bankrupt. We deserve what's coming.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      An America where everyone has a place at the table, not just Anglo male Christians? Ooooh I can't wait for that day!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. Super-Hero

    I digress...AJ and JP must be on the right track....not really! I was almost influenced to change my mind...someone said it was ok...must make it right, I guess. Dont' let your social agenda get in the way of the facts.

    May 19, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
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