Anti-gay bias has reared its head again, affecting both domestic politics and the war on terror.
Here at home, voters in this month’s elections encountered verbal gay bashing from a surprising source. Democrats slyly raised questions about the sexuality of GOP candidates.
In South Carolina, Democratic senatorial nominee Alex Sanders chided Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham for receiving Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement.
“His wife kicked him out,” Sanders said of Gotham’s former mayor, “and he moved in with two gay men and a Shi Tzu. Is that South Carolina values?”
When the unmarried Graham launched his campaign, state Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian said in a February 2001 news release that Graham “is a little too light in the loafers” to fill GOP Senator Strom Thurmond’s shoes. Informed that this was a gay slur, Harpootlian pleaded ignorance.
But then that phrase disappeared from the press release posted on the party’s Web site. Harpootlian told Lee Bandy of Columbia’s The State newspaper, “Someone exercised editorial authority without my approval.”
“We had some technical difficulties with that press release,” explained Democratic-party executive director Joanie Lawson. “When our Web mistress did a spell check, it distorted the whole press release.” Eventually, the entire news release vanished. “We had such a problem with it we decided to delete it. That’s the only reason,” Lawson added.
While Graham beat Sanders, Montana GOP senate candidate Mike Taylor was less fortunate. A Democratic attack ad featured footage from a 1980s personal-care program in which Taylor applies moisturizer to a male customer’s face. He said the ad made him look like a “gay hairdresser.” Taylor temporarily left the race before re-entering it and losing to incumbent Democratic Senator Max Baucus.
This Democratic ploy is not brand new. In 1996, President Clinton ran reelection commercials bragging about his signature on the anti-gay-matrimony Defense of Marriage Act. When the Human Rights Campaign squawked, the crafty Clinton camp promised to stop the radio ads, which they did — precisely when they were scheduled to conclude anyway.
True, Republicans rarely appeal to gay voters. Nonetheless, Democrats do engage in homophobia in an effort to buy votes. Liberal gay activists, take note.
Before Republicans chortle at Democratic hypocrisy, however, they might try to explain the Bush administration’s inexplicable enforcement of another example of Democratic, anti-gay bias: President Clinton’s Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell law. It still permits the Pentagon to fire gay GIs merely for their sexual orientation.
Since August, as intercepted “chatter” from suspected terrorists has grown louder, the Army has dismissed seven Arabic-language specialists from Monterey, California’s Defense Language Institute(DLI). Their offense? They happen to be gay.
As The New Republic’s Nathaniel Frank first reported, these highly trained Arab speakers were sacked as America braces for possible war with Iraq and against potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Personnel who speak Arabic are desperately needed for battlefield and espionage duties. As the House Intelligence Committee complained last fall, “Written materials can sit for months, and sometimes years, before a linguist with proper security clearances and skills can begin translation.”
Questioning captured terrorists and enemy soldiers is crucial, too. Army Human Intelligence Collector Alastair Gamble, 24, had taken nine-weeks of DLI interrogation training atop 30 weeks of intensive Arabic. Language instructors gave him stellar marks, while he earned a perfect 300 on his physical-fitness exam.
“I won’t lie that I was one of many in my class who fantasized about interrogating Osama or one of his deputies,” Gamble tells me. “It’s not a realistic dream, but you have to have something to motivate you through seven hours of Arabic classes a day. Realistically, though, I was also hoping to focus on the Iraqi dialect and have some kind of a career in and around U.S.-Iraqi relations.”
Last April, a late-night “health and welfare” inspection found Gamble in bed with Robert Hicks, 28, a male Korean-language specialist whom he had been dating for eight months. The dozen people who searched Gamble’s room discovered romantic greeting cards the two men had exchanged and photographs in which they displayed non-carnal affection.
After investigating his sexuality, the Army honorably discharged Gamble on August 2. Hicks also was honorably discharged last month.
As discretion is the better part of valor, Gamble and Hicks (who now share an apartment in the Washington, D.C. suburbs) should have met each other off base. Still, two patriotic linguists are now useless in U.S. efforts to watch al Qaeda, Baghdad, and Pyongyang.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says that six other high-level, Arabic speakers have been barred from defending America because they are gay. According to SLDN spokesman Steve Ralls, “none of these additional cases involved on-base conduct.”
“I want to wield my voice to end this policy,” Gamble says, “not because it discriminates against gays, but because it weakens the country’s military in a time of war.”
Whatever one thinks of homosexuality, Americans should agree — especially now — that the Pentagon ought to stay focused on first things, such as preventing America’s wily enemies from converting more skyscrapers into high-rise crematoria.