DADT opponents impugn Conaway’s prediction of segregation in military based on sexuality
Years spent fighting to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” have finally yielded results for advocacy groups, who are celebrating the victory after a long struggle to ensure open service by gay and lesbians in the armed forces. Yet, the residual effects of the repeal have opponents conjuring scenarios that critics say are nonsensical and born from fear and bigotry, signaling their advocacy work is not over.
Specifically, DADT opponents continue to impugn prediction of gay/straight segregation made by U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, picked by House Republicans to lead the 22-member transition team. Conaway is senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee’s Defense Acquisition Reform Panel and will chair a House Agriculture Committee panel. According to the Houston Chronicle, Conaway “may be the most important Texas lawmaker you don’t yet know.”
Recently, Conaway, who voted against repealing the 17-year-old policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, said the rollback would result in an unnecessary increase in defense spending, at a time when budgets need to be cut. The Midland Republican predicted excess spending would result from segregated barracks and bathrooms that would likely be created for service members uneasy with the new policy.
“You’re going to accommodate folks’ preferences as to whether or not they want to be in the same sleeping arrangements or bathroom facilities, all those kinds of things,” he told Scripps reporter Trish Choate, according to the Wichita Falls Times Record News.
Chuck Smith of LGBT rights group Equality Texas said Conaway’s concerns were not germane to the repeal of DADT and highly inaccurate.
“There is really no special treatment or separate accommodations,” Smith said. “Service members are going to continue to do their job and sexual orientation is not going to play a part in sleeping or shower situations.”
The arguments are nonsense, says Denny Meyer, national public affairs officer of American Veterans for Equal Rights. Not only are the majority of showers closed-off in the armed forces today, but DADT’s repeal would actually alleviate spending as the Department of Defense loses millions from the policy. A 2006 Palm Center blue ribbon commission report found about $360 million had been spent on enforcing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ through discharging and replacing service members from its enactment in 1994 to 2003. The study also discovered the figure was 91 percent more than what was initially reported by the Government Accountability Office.
“People who cannot express progress are tying any major issue Americans are concerned about, like the economy and the budget, to fan the flames of bigotry and get attention,” said Meyer, who served a decade in the armed forces.
An estimated 13,500 service members have been discharged under DADT, including 730 mission critical soldiers and more than 65 Arabic and Farsi linguists.** **
Nancy Russell, a retired Lt. Colonel in the Army and 20-year activist against DADT, said the measure has only helped drain defense spending as training costs for booted out senior service members is hefty. Russell compared the shower hysteria to the early misconception that AIDS could be contracted via swimming pools.
“There is a great deal of ignorance about the circumstances,” Russell said. “Most soldiers, marines and sailors do not see it as a problem and the military has said they don’t recommend separate facilities.”
Others are also propagating the notion straight men and women will be uncomfortable showering alongside homosexual service members, according to TPM Muckraker. Some, such as U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), claim hundreds and thousands of troops would leave the military as a result of DADT’s repeal. Gohmert also challenged the argument DADT is inconsistent with American values, countering the military is inconsistent with American values in that basic guarantees such as freedom of speech and assembly are void in the armed forces, therefore the same rules need not apply.
“When militaries throughout history of the greatest nations in the world have adopted the policy — that it’s fine for homosexuality to be overt, you can keep it private and control your hormones fine, but if you can’t, that’s fine too — they are toward the end of their existences as a great nation,” Gohmert said during a U.S House DADT hearing in December.