Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Gay Soldiers Say Military Changes Are Easy

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But Belkin said the courts might "skirt around some other minor benefits," such as notification of a designated person who might be a same-sex spouse in the case of death.

"This is an organization that is able to run airports and universities and wars and build computers and fighter planes," he said. "They should be so lucky to have this complicated a problem."

But there are still practical considerations such as authorizing same-sex spouses to use commissary shopping and support networks afforded their straight counterparts.

Just this year, the military set up protected categories for gay soldiers needing help with a psychotherapist or a doctor when mental health problems may be linked to sexual orientation.

"You used to have to choose between health care needs and the risk of being fired," said Aaron Tax of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

"The military has a long history of adapting to change and prides itself on supporting service members," said Tax.

As for issues of sexual misconduct, most can be resolved under the existing military code of conduct, according to the group.

Sexual harassment should also be a non-issue with the existing military code of conduct, says SLDN's executive director Aubrey Sarvis.

"It's neutral with respect to gender and sexual orientation," he said.

"The military has a pretty good history and tradition of treating all service members the same way," he said. "Whether you are straight or gay, if there is improper behavior today between a male and female, it's the same as if it's improper behavior between two members of the same sex. They are treated the same way."

As for worries about gays and lesbians sharing housing with straight service member, "that's offensive," said Sarvis, who spent three years in the Army infantry in the 1960s and who is gay. "Of course they should."

"The reality is in some combat zones and in some circumstances, men and women do share some latrines and showers and it hasn't been a major problem," he said.

He said the key component to any major culture shift is education and training.

"And that begins at the top, particularly in a large organization like the military with one million plus," said Sarvis. "It trickles down from the officers of the corps?all the way to the ranks."

"Rules are rules and the law is the law," he said. "It doesn't matter if you are gay or straight, male or female."

Gay and lesbian service members or those interested in signing up to serve and have questions may contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney at 202-328-3244, ext. 100 or go online toServicemembers Legal Defense Network.

For more information on the efforts by the Center for Military Readiness, go to Flags & Generals for the Military and Military Culture Coalition.

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