(Photo: Reuters / Bob Strong)
Homosexual military men and women yearning for the end of the “don't ask, don't tell” law are setting their sights on marriage rights. However, a former military leader warns that the military is not ready for its repeal.
Gay military members, now protected by a weakened DADT, have reportedly been publicly holding hands with and kissing their partners while wearing military paraphernalia and planning weddings. However, retired Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon maintains that the armed forces are not ready for a post-DADT military.
"I think what has happened, quite frankly, is that there has been confusion in the general public with tolerance for homosexual activity versus acceptance," he told The Christian Post. "Many people in America and many people in the military have grown more tolerant of homosexuals and homosexual activity."
At the same time, many service members "do not accept homosexual activity and behavior as the norm,” he pointed out.
Mixon has served through three wars: Operations Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. He said he knows soldiers and, more specifically, he knows the army.
He worries openly gay soldiers who express their sexuality while co-existing in the tight knit nature of combat and military living conditions will create a rift among soldiers.
Gay advocacy groups disagree with Mixon's assessment.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization representing gay troops, notes that more than 14,500 servicemen and women have been discharged from the military since the 1993 legislation prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military was enacted. SLDN laments that every day the repeal certification goes unsigned, soldiers are at risk.
President Barack Obama signed legislation in December 2010 to repeal DADT pending certification that soldiers have been prepared for the transition.
Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tried to speed past the certification process. A 3-judge panel ruled that government must immediately stop enforcing DADT. That ruling was reversed Friday.
While the ban has been reinstated, the ruling stipulates that the military cannot investigate, penalize or discharge service members suspected of violating the ban.
News of the ruling ignited a flurry of action.
Gay service members marched in the San Diego LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride Parade Saturday wearing t-shirts advertising their branch of military service and carrying a banner printed with the military's branch logos.
The parade is believed to be first time active-duty troops have participated in such an event, according to gay news publication On Top Magazine.
Gay soldiers also told The Associated Press that they are planning to celebrate the eventual DADT repeal by marrying their partner. Army Reserve Capt. R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, is among the soldiers anticipating a same-sex union.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates equality among Republicans, was the group that filed a lawsuit against DADT.
Cooper said he is planning to marry his boyfriend, a former Navy officer. He is first advocating for the military to extend benefits, such as housing allowances and base assignment that takes soldiers' marital status into account, to gay couples. Extending marital benefits to both gay and straight soldiers, Cooper said, is "necessary to ensure morale and unit cohesion."
The Defense of Marriage Act makes it illegal to extend federal benefits to gay couples.
Mixon left the military after publishing an open letter to in the newspaper Stars and Stripes urging soldiers to express their concerns about the DADT repeal.
Before his departure, Mixon led trainings for DADT repeal. He said the trainings are general in nature and do not specifically address how military personnel are to accommodate homosexual couples married under state law.
Though gay soldiers were bound to silence under DADT, Mixon said the law adequately maintained the cohesion among soldiers.
"We have fought this war (in Iraq and Afghanistan) for over 10 years under that policy and not once has any commander or any senior individual ever raised a point that DADT and the discharges that took place under DADT were having an adverse effect on combat," he said.
He noted that trainings being carried out in every branch do not guarantee the same level of readiness on the battle field.
"The training that I observed does not give a measure of the effect on combat readiness," said Mixon.
The government, he stressed, should be assured the previous level of military readiness will be maintained, if not surpassed, once DADT is repealed before certification is given.