Senate seeks to calm row over gays in army
Tuesday 30 March 1993
As the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on whether to lift the half-century-old ban opened before a packed audience on Capitol Hill, the battle lines were more sharply drawn than ever, with polls suggesting that public opinion too is split down the middle on the issue.
Ranged against the idea, at least in the original form put forward by the President, are virtually the entire US military establishment and - almost certainly - a majority of the Senate, headed by the Committee's influential chairman, Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.
No less intense, however, is support from liberal groups led by the powerful gay-rights lobby, which plans demonstrations and protests over the 12 weeks the hearings are scheduled to last, spearheaded by a march on Washington in mid-April.
Right now, the prospects of bridging the gap look thin. President Clinton's first attempt to do so last week, when he suggested homosexuals might be confined to certain duties, only succeeded in enraging gay groups, who argue that this would amount to creation of 'second-class soldiers' - a discrimination they say would violate the constitution. And how, others ask, could homosexuals be identified if they were not obliged to disclose their sexual leanings when they joined the armed services?
At yesterday's opening session, Mr Nunn hinted at what has been called a 'don't ask, don't tell, don't flaunt' formula - in other words, little different from the temporary ruling now in force, until Defence Secretary Les Aspin comes up with a definitive policy by mid-July. That falls far short of the demands of homosexual-rights activists, who see this high-profile controversy as an opportunity to further their campaign for full recognition in every walk of life.
Their opponents present a vision of a military held hostage by gay groups emboldened by a lifting of the ban to insist on equal benefits for unmarried homosexual partners. Worse still, they argue, the combat effectiveness and 'unit cohesion' of the US armed forces would be dangerously undermined.
For Mr Clinton, there is the separate, potentially massive political risk of alienating fellow Democrats such as Senator Nunn at the very moment he needs party unity to push through his economic package. As Senate Republican leader Bob Dole put it at the weekend, the President is in 'very deep water'.
Mr Clinton's response is to walk the tightrope between the 'status' and 'behaviour' of homosexual servicemen. But, warns Mr Nunn, 'when you declare your status, you are describing your behaviour'.
Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
South Korea ferry disaster: Released transcripts show chaos and confusion in the moments before ferry sinks
Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...
£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...