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December 7th, 2010
12:01 PM ET

Opinion: 'Don't ask, don't tell': A cold shower on civil rights

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/12/06/wolraich.dadt/t1larg.us.troops.stalls.kuwaid.suited.afpgi.jpg width=300 height=169]Editor's note: The opinions in this blog are solely those of Michael Wolraich, a founder of the political blog dagblog.com.

Michael Wolraich
Special to CNN

"If 'don't ask, don't tell' is repealed and you are assigned to bathroom facilities (that have) an open bay shower that someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian service member also used, which are you most likely to do?" - Question on 2010 Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Survey of Uniformed Active Duty and Reserve Service Members*

It seems that ensuring shower security for American soldiers and Marines is critical to maintaining our global military pre-eminence. If our brave men and women cannot comfortably bathe in environments free from the risk of homosexual lust, how can we expect them to battle armed Taliban insurgents and other enemies?

In order to assess the gay shower hazard and other threats to military readiness if the "don't ask, don't tell" policy were repealed, the Department of Defense surveyed American troops over the summer.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, found the results reassuring. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "Repeal of the law will not prove an unacceptable risk to military readiness. ... I believe our troops and their families are ready for this," although he acknowledged, "some soldiers and Marines may want separate shower facilities."

Sen. John McCain, despite having promised in 2006 to respect the judgment of military leaders, disputed the results of the survey. He questioned whether the sample size was representative and noted that soldiers and Marines in combat units were especially concerned about the effects of repeal.

Insisting that "one of our highest responsibilities is to the men and women of our armed services," the Senate's self-declared straight-talker demurred, "it may be premature to make such a change at this time and in this manner, without further consideration of this report and further study of the issue by Congress."

While the government certainly has profound responsibilities to the men and women of our armed services, it is not clear why the precise breakdown of their opinions on "don't ask, don't tell" matters one whit when assessing whether gays and lesbians are permitted to serve with them.

When President Harry Truman ordered the armed forces to integrate in 1948, he did not first commission a survey asking white soldiers what they would do if they had to share a shower bay with a black soldier. If he had, the response in an era of segregated bathrooms would have been unenthusiastic to say the least.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Military • Opinion
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Juan Rodriguez

    Obviously this person has a very twisted view of the world and knows nothing about US military history. Gays have been serving in the US Military since the revolutionary war, through 2 world wars and beyond. Most if not all gay service members have served their country with honor and dignity. This conservative movement in both the US, US government and the military have so twisted the intent of DADT that was originally meant to protect gay service members has been used as a tool to hunt down gays. Is tolerance so intolerable that we debate even the showers? Then why do we not put up partitions in every Jr and Senior high school, or athletic bath room? I know of no gay man or women that would risk being found out if any thing happens in the showers. Normally If any thing did happened it is usually initiated by both parties. Why are we not talking about how many service women get pregnant or have intercourse with other service men. It all seems like a double standard to me. Gays serve in almost every european country with without any problems. As we always have in the US even before DADT. Are we still so hung up on sexuality? Obviously there are some top brass that have nothing better to do with their time and our tax payer dollars then to deal with sexual origentaion.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  2. Patricia Finnegan Scala

    It is unbelievable that in this day and age that a group of people are denied their civil rights. If the government is going to treat gays like second-class citizens then they should get a break on their taxes - let's set a rate for second-class taxes!

    December 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  3. Gary Warren

    Your SERIOUSLY going to give this shower issue a civil right title ?!?!? Ask if the women being segregated if they feel their civil rights have been violated ? And if I is a violation it would be against the heterosexuls civil rights not the gays . This issue is better dropped in the gays best interest as it only gives less merit to the relief they seek .

    December 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  4. iarafoschino

    The policy don't ask don't tell is very fair to human rights..And if that policy can create a problem in the bathroom while the soldiers shower, then the military should adapt a new policy about that situation..Maybe it shouldn't be public shower anymore but private ones to avoid any sexual tension, that way they can apply the policy Don't ask don't tell without that issue.

    December 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm |