The behavior of the GOP debate audience — which as a whole has not impressed lately — caused a stir again on Sept. 22, when members of the crowd booed after a video question submitted by a gay serviceman was shown. The soldier, Stephen Hill, mentioned that he “had to lie about who [he] was” when he was deployed to Iraq, and asked the candidates to elaborate on their positions regarding the repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
Although the jeering was clearly restricted to a small minority of those in attendance, the fact that it even happened should be cause for concern, especially when coupled with most Republicans’ stance on the issue. In recent years, the “conservative” position seems to have evolved into full support for DADT, at a minimum. Others have advocated for a reinstatement of the total ban on homosexuals in the military. To express anything less than grave concern and indignation is to risk charges of social engineering and support for liberal policy.
But how did we even get to this point? The late U.S. senator and former presidential candidate Barry Goldwater pointed out that “everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar” and drew comparisons to the unfounded fears many held about racial integration of the armed forces. He argued that the U.S. wasted vast sums of time, money, and talent in an effort to “persecute and pretend,” and all for little result.
In perhaps his most pithy comment on the topic, Goldwater famously said that “you don’t need to be straight to be in the military… you just have to be able to shoot straight.”
If that was good enough for the man who was known as “Mr. Conservative,” it should be good enough for conservatives – and all Americans who oppose discrimination – today.Published in