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Don't Ask, Don't Bend Over In the Shower

Commentary by Greg Lewis / TheRant.US
December 12, 2005

Most of us recall one of the first legislative initiatives of Bill Clinton's Presidency, his ill-advised attempt to gain acceptance for homosexuals in America's armed forces. Initially presented by the left as a bold and sweeping attempt to "reform" America's armed services by requiring them to ignore the sexual orientation of their recruits (as well as the soldiers, sailors, marines, and national guardsmen already enlisted), the policy degenerated into one which, finally, became a mockery of the supposedly well-intentioned impulse from which it sprung.

Clinton's effort to impose on the U.S. Military a policy that dictated turning a blind eye toward the sexual orientation of military recruits and enlisted personnel finally devolved into one which was summed up in the phrase, "Don't ask, don't tell." In other words, it ended up that military recruiters and commanders were forbidden to inquire about the sexual orientation of military personnel and prospects. Further, recruits and enlisted personnel were advised not to volunteer or otherwise make public information about their sexuality. Talk about a Mexican standoff!

Let's gloss over the fact that then-President Clinton's legislative initiative was intended to impose a marxist/leftist group-think agenda on that most fundamental and (necessarily) conservative of American institutions, the U.S. Military. Let's focus instead on the consequences of Clinton's policy, on what has emerged over the past few days in a case currently being argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. The case involves the question of whether American colleges and universities — specifically, in this instance, law schools — have the right to ban military recruiters from their campuses.

If I understand it, the legal team arguing in favor of allowing American colleges and universities to ban military recruiters from their campuses are basing their case on the idea that the American military is subverting the rights of homosexuals because — I want to emphasize that this whole thing is abstruse in the extreme — they are somehow violating the rights of gays and lesbians, notwithstanding the policy laid out in the don't-ask-don't-tell legislation of 1993. On its face, it would appear to be a classic example of circular reasoning.

If we dig deeper, however, we find that they're really arguing that colleges and universities have the right to prohibit representatives of particular organizations and points-of-view from presenting their ideas on campus because those ideas — in the opinion of the folks who dictate what ideas are and are not worthy of presentation on their campuses — run counter to the prevailing campus (read "leftist, marxist, politically correct") mindset, a mindset that is somehow qualified to dictate which ideas do or do not rise to the level of legitimacy; that is to say, a mindset bent on dictating precisely what does and does not constitute "free speech," and damn the Constitution.

Never mind that those arguing in favor of this blatant abrogation of the rights of free speech in America are attempting to hide behind the politically correct notion that military policy and practice currently somehow violate the rights of homoxexuals and in doing so reduce to insignificance the broader and more fundamental rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The government, on the other hand, is saying, in effect, "No problem. You can ban military recruiters if you want to, but, under the terms of the Solomon Amendment to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, you'll lose federal funding if you do so." The Solomon Amendment, which was actually passed in 1996, prohibits American educational institutions, including law schools, from receiving federal funds if they do not allow the U.S. military to conduct employment recruitment programs on their campuses.

Let's just say that, based on the early returns, those pressing the case that military recruiters should be able to be banned based on this argument are meeting stiff resistance from the Supreme Court justices. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has observed that "the government takes the position that the law school is entirely free to convey its message to everyone who comes." And Justice Stephen G. Breyer has suggested that the argument presented by the law schools could also be used by "the worst segregationists you can imagine" to limit blacks' access to a campus.

In other words, it appears as if the Supreme Court is about to do the right thing. It's difficult, if not impossible, to say whether the presence of newly-ensconced Chief Justice John Roberts is already beginning to pay dividends. But let me offer this: Sandra Day O'Connor seems already to have begun — as I argue is her wont — to drift toward the side whose position seems to best represent what's currently "in the air," toward the point-of-view argued most persuasively by the several justices who seem to have "got it." It may well be that John Roberts, he of the massive scholarship and persuasive presentation of the Constitutionalist purview, has already begun to make his presence felt.

The minimizing, not to say the appropriate trivializing, of President Clinton's Gays-In-the-Military policy might well be occurring before our eyes in this case, and at the hands of the very forces who argued most vehemently on its behalf in the early 1990s. The fact that the triviality of this ill-founded, not to say deleterious, legislation might finally be revealed for what it is through the arguments of those defending it is but one of the benefits that will accrue as a result of the current Supreme Court deliberation.

"Don't ask, don't bend over in the shower" has come to represent what Clinton's legislative agenda means to those who are actively involved in and care deeply about preserving America's military institutions and the noble and glorious tradition they carry on. The fact that, as a result of the Supreme Court's pending decision in this case, American military personnel might no longer have to heed this rather more streetwise characterization of Clinton's gays-in-the-military initiative is another, albeit more pertinent, more meaningful, and more direct, benefit of the current brouhaha.

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