Monday, June 23, 2008

Sam Nunn makes the case for barring gays from the military

Then-Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), speaking on the floor of the United States Senate on 16 Jul 1993, makes his case for barring gays and lesbians from the military. From the Congressional Record:

Mr. President, I believe it is essential that the Congress codify the policies regarding homosexuality in the Armed Forces by adopting legislative findings and by providing clear legislative direction to the executive branch and to the leadership and the men and women in the Armed Forces.

Based upon the hearings held in our committee, it is my view that any policy issued by the executive branch as well as any legislation enacted by the Congress must at a minimum be consistent with the following principles....

The first principle I would articulate today is that military service is a unique calling which has no counterpart in civilian society. The primary purpose of our Armed Forces is to prepare for and to prevail in combat should the need arise. The conduct of military operations requires members of the Armed Forces to make extraordinary sacrifices including, if need be, the ultimate sacrifice to provide for the defense of our Nation.

No. 2, the foundation of combat capability is unit cohesion. Unlike our civilian society, in the military the mission is the No. 1 priority. The unit is the second priority, and the individual is the third priority.

Mr. President, in society the individual comes first. In the military, the mission comes first. If in a quest for full societal constitutional rights in the military, which have never existed in the military, if in that quest we end up placing consideration of the individual before consideration of the mission, we are going to have an awful lot of people killed in combat, and we are going to have an awful lot of people wounded in combat. And we are going to have questionable military performance by many of our units if we replace the standing principles for years and years that have been part of our military history--that the mission comes first, not the individual.

That is what so many people do not understand about the military. But it is a cardinal principle, and it is a distinction between the military and our civilian society.

Mr. President, the third principle is that military personnel policies must facilitate the assignment and the worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and must work under close conditions affording minimal privacy. There is an awful lot that can be said on this subject. But another fundamental distinction between the military and civilian society is that people in civilian society, by and large, go home at night and they have the privacy of their homes. In many tens of thousands of military assignments, the home is the ship or the home is the tent or the home is the barracks. That is a fundamental distinction.

The fourth principle is that because of the factors that I have already enumerated, the presence in military units of persons who, by their acts or by their statements demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual acts, would cause an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order, and discipline, and unit cohesion that are absolutely essential to effective combat capability. There should be no change in the current grounds for discharge--homosexual acts, statements, or marriages.

The fifth principle is that while DOD policies on investigations may be subject to commonsense limitations because of the need to allocate scarce resources and to establish investigative priorities, these policies should not preclude investigations based upon any information relevant to an administrative or disciplinary proceeding.

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