The truth about “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”

Why do issues like “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” preoccupy the focus and money of our government? Politicians are moving toward a procedural vote to end the Pentagon’s 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans people who choose to be gay from promoting the kind of sex they desire when they serve in the military.

But why do we need to announce what kind of sex we prefer? The line being used to validate this desire is that being gay is something comparable to race and gender. But this is intentionally deceptive and manipulative. It is unproven and unprovable. Homosexuality is about the sex people are choosing for themselves not a condition of birth. Are we so ill-informed to believe that the kind of sex people want is a civil rights issue? This is not about discrimination—unless we want to extend civil rights status to every sexual lifestyle people choose. Sexuality must always be viewed in the context of human choosing—especially in legal settings.

It’s very difficult to resolve ethical or legal questions about sexual conduct outside of the context of human choosing. Arguments for sexual conduct based on some kind of genetic predisposition simply don’t help us determine what is right or wrong or what is best for society. While it is clearly possible to be biologically inclined toward certain types of behavior, using such impulses to define personhood or to justify behavioral choices is misguided.

In judicial settings, sources behind behavior could help balance judgment with mercy, but such influences must not be used to validate any type of sexual behavior. People must be treated as individuals who choose to act in relation to the influences in their lives. Therefore, it is best for us to speak of sexual desires and behaviors only in the context of human choosing. A society that intends to condemn certain forms of sexual conduct as illegal must treat all sexuality in the context of human choosing, not as predetermined condition. A departure from this approach to sexuality will open a legal and civil Pandora’s box.

Steve Cornell

Additional note:

We have all been sexual deviants—if only in our thoughts. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness. We are all continuously being tempted toward deviant sexual behavior. Although some people could be biologically inclined toward homosexual behavior and others had it forced on them against their wills, ultimately it becomes a behavior people choose or resist like all sexual conduct.

It is possible to love someone of the same sex and care deeply for them but that relationship only becomes homosexual when you engage in sex with the person. Let’s be very clear that we are talking about sexual behavior. On this view, for someone tempted by homosexual desire, the answer is not: “You must become heterosexual.” The answer is the same for all sexual temptation: resist temptation and obey God.

What advocates of gay marriage say is that our society has permitted and blessed heterosexual attraction but does not offer the same blessing to same-sex attraction. In fact, in the history of human culture (until recently), no society has approved consensual, long-term homosexual relationships. Most societies have had laws forbidding homosexual behavior.

Yet because humans are fallen beings, we have not done a good job fulfilling God’s design for marriage and sexuality. Even the Bible (being the candid and real book that it is), does not hide the ways that God’s servants distorted and disobeyed his original intention for marriage and sexuality. There are glaring examples among the so-called “heros of the faith” of sexual unfaithfulness, polygamy, and other violations of God’s design.

It is notable that when Jesus was asked about divorce, he drove the discussion back to the way God originally established marriage. He said, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?

Most people recognize a need for some laws restraining certain types of sexual behavior (e.g. rape, incest, sexual contact between adults and children). We do not approve sexual behavior simply because a person desires it or feels it to be natural to himself. Even if we believe heterosexuality is the God-intended design for human beings, it would not mean that all heterosexual behavior is acceptable. Adultery is one example of wrongful heterosexual conduct.

If someone asks me if I chose my heterosexuality, I am not sure what my answer would accomplish. The question is designed to trace the origins of sexual orientation but even if I was born genetically preconditioned to be sexually attracted to women, it wouldn’t mean that this attraction is always right.

Answering source questions does not necessarily lead to moral conclusions. Morality has to do with right and wrong. Source questions are also more complex. Sources can include genetic, cultural, experiential and social contributors. But sources cannot force one to behave in a certain way. They can exercise strong influence but people must exercise their volition in relation to the influences. Human dignity demands this position. This means, among other things, that I must look elsewhere for deciding matters of right and wrong regarding sexuality.

Consider this example:

If an adulterous woman complains that her adultery (her wrongful heterosexual behavior) was because of her distant and uncaring husband, we might be more sympathetic toward her situation but we cannot endorse her behavior (at least, I cannot).

I know the comparison is resented and does not have exact parallels but for the sake of argument, if a pedophile feels driven to his behavior from what he identifies as a natural urge of genetic origin, or if he argues for the “wonderful nurturing relationship” with the children he sexually molests, we cannot approve his behavior on either account. It is to be condemned. Claiming sources like these cannot be the basis for establishing laws.

God made me this way:

Advocates for gay marriage often invoke religious values to defend their viewpoint. “God made me this way, how can you deny what God has made?” for example.

But it is no small matter that they are making claims about sexuality that are at odds with the historic, traditional teachings of every major faith tradition of human history. That doesn’t necessarily make them wrong and these faiths right, but it ought to make every sensible person pause. We at least know that opposition to gay marriage does not come from what some call “a thin extreme of fundamentalist Christians.”

Further, for most of US history, our government has endorsed the unique status and sacred nature of traditional marriage as a cornerstone of social stability. More recently, this stability has been weakened by changes in divorce laws and diminished commitment to covenant keeping. And no one can deny the horrible social consequences that have accompanied these changes.

Another question one must answer is what affect legalizing gay marriage will have on the institution of marriage and what the value of family and the fabric of our society. Are children better off with a mom and a dad? Since people choosing a homosexual relationship cannot bear children from their union, what will this mean for children removed from their biological mother and father? These are issues that should be carefully weighed not lightly passed over in a demand for fulfillment of sexual impulses.

And, because of the long held, deeply committed moral convictions of the majority of people in our nation against homosexual conduct, legalizing gay marriage with the equal rights and protections of heterosexual marriage would open a legal Pandora’s box—especially given the pervasive litigious impulse of Americans when they feel their rights are being trampled.

5 thoughts on “The truth about “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”

  1. Kent says:

    First of all, homosexuality is not a choice, being open about that facet of your life is. As a gay man with many friends who are all over the spectrum of human sexuality, I can honestly tell you that not one of them has claimed choice in the matter. Furthermore, whether it is a choice or not is not of import in terms of legal proceedings. Religion is a choice. Yes, you chose to be a Christian. And yet, if this bill were about religion, and not sexuality, you would be singing it’s praises. Not because you approve of anyone else’s religion, I’m quite certain that you don’t, but because, if the tables were turned, you wouldn’t want them to be able to kick YOU out of the military for being a Christian.

    Well, the same rule should apply for sexuality. If being gay is a choice, then being straight is equally a choice. So, if you can discriminate against me for “choosing” to be gay, then I can discriminate against you for being straight, right? That just makes sense.

    As for your “additional note,” marriage and allowing LGBT men and women to serve the country they love openly are not the same thing. Stop confusing the issue. You’re not doing anyone any good by doing that.

    • So if we say that it’s all a choice, can we stop comparing a desire to have same-sex encounters with race or gender? These are not choices but conditions of birth. All sexuality must be approached in the context of human choosing.

      • Kent says:

        No, we cannot, because at the end of the day you’re discriminating, which is where the big comparisons are with regards to race, gender and sexuality. You keep saying that “all sexuality must be approached in the context of human choosing,” yet you fail to say why, and even if you told me right now, it wouldn’t make a difference. As I said, and as you seem to have gleefully ignored, religion is just as much a choice, and if you think it’s okay to discriminate against people for the “choice” of sexuality, then it’s okay to discriminate based on religion.

        And before you go off on incest and the like, bare in mind that it is legal to marry your first cousin in 25 states in this country. And under special circumstances it is legal in an additional 6. As for pedophilia and rape, these are situations where one party is cannot or did not consent. These examples do not apply to this instance.

        Furthermore, in this country we have an implied freedom of choice. True, it is not laid out in the constitution in so many words, but we are granted the freedom to choose our personal religion, or in fact no religion at all, and sometimes that religion will say that god loves gay people and that being gay is no more a choice and no more sinful than being straight. We have the freedom to choose, with the help of our friends, family and neighbors, representatives and leaders who we feel will make the best choices for us in the government. We have the freedom to choose what to eat, who to receive health care from, what to wear and who to love…but you can’t help who you fall in love with, can you? You just choose to pursue those feelings and hope that they feel the same way back.

        You can do all of those things and more. You can. And with wild abandon. You can be open about it. You can without fear that anyone will perceive you negatively for who fall in love. Who you pursue a relationship with. At the very least they won’t feel that way because of that person’s gender. You’re the lucky one in this conversation, and yet, I find that I pity you.

  2. Sam says:

    Good article. I didn’t think DADT should have ever been implemented at all–I thought homosexuals should have continued to be banned from the military. How sad that now DADT has been repealed too. I feel for our armed forces. :(

  3. Wim Lammers says:

    DADT is almost over, is almost history now. DADT has to do with the fact that an INDIVIDUAL may not reveal the fact that he or she is a homosexual.
    What has DADT to do with gay marriage and what has an adulterous woman to do with DADT?
    It didn’t bather DADT if God made me so or not.
    Can you tell now the very truth about “Don’t ask; don”t tell”?

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