Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Did Craig?s arrest change attitudes?


Maybe, just maybe, attitudes are changing and we're on the way to abandoning the self-destructive obsession for punishing homosexuality.

I say that because several of Sen. Larry Craig's hometown neighbors in Midvale, an Idaho town as straight-laced as they come, appeared on CNN complaining that Craig's personal conduct should not judge his public performance. In other words, Craig's sexual activities are his business, not the public's. He shouldn't have been forced to resign.

That's self-interest talking, of course, if not an epiphany of conscience. It's dawning on Idahoans that homophobia is costly. Now they need to acknowledge that Craig is the victim of his own and his Republican Party's distorted mania about gays, "family values" extremists that're his allies, and Christian evangelicals whose suffocating influence in politics has choked intelligent dissent on anti-gay policies.

Idaho interests that profited for years from Craig's Washington clout also implicitly supported Craig's hypocritical, obsessive denunciation of nonconforming sex. Now they've lost their champion because of what Republican colleagues consider aberrant behavior in an airport bathroom.

To our shame, no other western industrialized nation is as intolerant of gays and lesbians or goes to such extremes in reprisal. Virtually every NATO member allows openly gay members in the military.

As of March, 10,870 gays had been discharged by the U.S. services. Drumming them out cost more than $500 million. Studies suggest another 65,000 remain undetected in the ranks.

In addition, several hundred gay military personnel in short supply—Arabic-language translators, medical specialists and intelligence analysts—were foolishly discharged just as they were needed in Iraq.

Part of the changing attitude about gays in the military is underway and led, ironically, by retired generals such as former Chief of Staff chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili, who now believe the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is wrong and damaging. A bill in congress proposes junking the 1997 anti-gay law.

Also, polls show 79 percent of Americans don't object to gays in uniform.

The United States isn't in the best of company with nations that ban openly gay men and women from serving—China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

The impetus for banning openly gay military men and women supposedly was to preserve "good order and morale" in military ranks.

Has anyone read of criminal misbehavior by gays in uniform?

Instead, courts martial now underway that violate "good order and morale" involve heterosexual men and women charged with torture and murder of Iraqi civilians, murder of fellow GIs, rape, and dereliction of duty.

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