There have been some curious headlines in the LGBT press following remarks Senator Hillary Clinton made during a campaign stop in Tama, Iowa on Monday.
Answering a question from Air Force Major Gary Mathis of Cedar Rapids about privacy and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Senator Clinton reiterated her long-held position that the ban on gay troops must be repealed. "I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they comply with the code of military justice and they have the appropriate behavior, they shouldn’t be disqualified from serving simply because they’re gay," Senator Clinton said.
She took exactly the right position: Opportunity for gay Americans to serve in our armed forces, and a level playing field for every service member, regardless of their sexual orientation.
So why did the LGBT blogosphere, Major Mathis - and even The New York Times - miss the point?
The next morning, PageOneQ.com posted a link to the story on its website, with the headline, Hillary: Gay Soldiers, Behave Yourselves. And the LGBT blog Queerty said that Clinton had warned "gay soldiers to watch themselves." Even Major Mathis said he wasn't sure about Senator Clinton's answer, telling the Times that, "I don’t think her answer fully recognized the day-to-day realities of military life."
Actually, Hillary got it right. Exactly right.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice can deal with the issues our opponents love to raise when fighting against open service, and it can do so without regard to sexual orientation. Offenses like fraternization, rape and sexual harassment are already addressed in military regulations, and those regulations should be applied across the board. A gay service member, for example, should be held to the same standards of sexual harassment as a straight one. It's simply a matter of asking everyone to play by the same rules.
In truth, Clinton is just saying the gay troops should "behave themselves" in the same way that straight troops are expected to.
Senator Clinton addressed the Major's question about privacy head-on, too. Again, the UCMJ sets the standard for service members' privacy, and privacy should extend to everyone in uniform, regardless of their sexual orientation. And while the Times reports that Major Mathis didn't think the Senator addressed "what she would do to ensure the privacy of male soldiers who shower, sleep and work out in the gym alongside other male soldiers," the fact is that the Major, to a large extent, misses the point himself.
There are already lesbian and gay troops showering, eating, working out and living side-by-side with straight troops. Heterosexual American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are serving alongside openly gay allied troops (from counties like Great Britain) in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. And they're doing so without incident, because our men and women in uniform are professionals. They understand their duty is to get the job done, and when it comes to stopping a bullet, treating a wound or translating terrorist messages, they don't care if the person doing it is gay or straight . . . they just want (and need) the job done.
Senator Clinton, in her answer in Iowa, recognized that inherent professionalism. She understood that a good service member is judged by his or her conduct, not sexual orientation. (And by conduct, I mean adhering to the UCMJ as it is written, and by advocating for repeal of the military's ban on heterosexual and same-sex consensual sodomy, which Senator Clinton has also said she supports.)
So let's be clear, and get the facts - ahem - "straight." Senator Clinton was not proposing a harsher set of behavioral standards for gay troops. She was not imploring them to "behave" anymore than the commander-in-chief implores all of our men and women in uniform to do the same. And she was not shy about addressing the privacy issue raised in the original question.
Instead, she has - for quite a long time - been advocating for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and a level playing field for lesbian and gay troops . . . a position she has consistently held since her days as First Lady.
This time around, the headlines and pundits got it wrong. And Hillary was right all along.