The Inclusive Command: Voluntary Integration of Sexual Minorities into the U.S. Military

Many opponents of gays in the military will accept the proposition that gay and lesbian soldiers, most of them closeted, have served their country bravely and well. General Colin Powell has referred to gay service members as “proud, brave, loyal, good Americans” who have “served well in the past and are continuing to serve well.” General H. Norman Schwartzkopf agrees: “homosexuals have served in the past and have done a great job serving their country.” What these opponents find harder to accept is the proposition that heterosexual people can effectively serve their country if openly gay people are in the military with them. The fear is that if openly gay and lesbian people are allowed to serve, they will make other soldiers uncomfortable. This discomfort will cause a breakdown in morale and discipline, destroying the “unit cohesion” that is essential for effective soldiering. To show that these fears have perpetuated an exclusion policy that is overbroad, this Essay proposes the creation of inclusive commands in the U.S. military. Gay and non-gay soldiers would effectively volunteer for inclusive commands by answering “no” to the following question: Would you prefer to serve in a command without any gay personnel? Soldiers who were not willing to serve with gay people would be assigned to alternative, exclusive commands based upon their answer to the sorting question. Placement in an inclusive command would therefore be entirely voluntary. It bears emphasizing that the inclusive command would combine gay and non gay service members. The point of the proposal is not to create a segregated unit just for sexual minorities, for this might reinforce stereotypes and prejudice. A “gay” command would fail to address the unit cohesion problem head on. Therefore, the command should be “inclusive.”