Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Competing Compromises on Gays in Military Nunn, Frank Present Options to the Pentagon That Would Allow Homosexuals to Serve

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Competing Compromises on Gays in Military Nunn, Frank Present Options to the Pentagon That Would Allow Homosexuals to Serve

Article excerpt

THE Washington debate over allowing homosexuals in the military is becoming a battle of the multiple "don't" compromises.

On one side is the "don't ask, don't tell" plan favored by Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia and some other key lawmakers. Under this approach, military recruits would no longer be asked about their sexual orientation. Yet openly gay personnel could still be dismissed from the service.

On the other side is a plan put forward by Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts that might be characterized as "don't ask, don't tell, don't investigate." Mr. Frank, one of two openly gay members of Congress, proposes that gays be required to remain silent about their status while on duty. Off-base, however, they would be allowed to be openly homosexual without fear of losing their jobs.

Frank has been criticized by homosexual-rights activists for offering something short of what President Clinton promised during the campaign: a flat lifting of the ban on gays in the armed forces. But as Frank has pointed out, sentiment in Congress is running strongly against Mr. Clinton and gay rights at the moment.

Though Frank and Senator Nunn have moved the poles of the debate somewhat closer together, there is still a large gulf between their positions. The "compromise" inherent in their plans thus may be less profound than it seems.

Neither side offers much detail on rules of conduct that could be crucial to policy interpretation. Under "don't ask, don't tell," for instance, what would happen if a slip of the tongue revealed a member of the military as gay? Would they still be dismissed, even if they otherwise concealed their orientation?

At the heart of the proposal by Nunn and others is the belief that if members of the military find out one of their fellows is gay, it will cause unacceptable disruption. …

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