US generals, admiral come out of the closet
By John Files
December 11, 2003
Three retired US military officers - two generals and an admiral - who had been among the most senior officers to criticise the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for homosexuals in the military, have revealed that they are gay.
The three - army Brigadier-Generals Keith Kerr and Virgil Richard, and Rear-Admiral Alan Steinman of the Coast Guard - said the policy had been ineffective and undermined the military's core values - truth, honour, dignity, respect and integrity.
They said they had been forced to lie to their friends, family and colleagues to serve their country. In doing so, they said, they had to evade and deceive others about a natural part of their identity.
The officers said they were the first of their rank to come out publicly, and that they hoped that others would follow. They are the highest-ranking US military officers to acknowledge that they are gay since a National Guard colonel was discharged in 1992 for being a lesbian. She was later reinstated.
Ten years after the Clinton administration instituted the policy of "don't ask, don't tell", it remains contentious and has fallen far short of President Bill Clinton's pledge to allow gays to serve openly.
Nearly 10,000 service members have been discharged for being gay under the policy signed into law on November 30, 1993, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a gay rights group.
"Don't ask, don't tell" was a compromise to allow gays and lesbians to serve without fear of harassment or expulsion as long as they kept their sexual orientation to themselves. Senior military leaders have argued that openly gay service members would disrupt unit cohesion and morale.
When the policy was created, military officials argued that most Americans - and, thus, most soldiers - did not approve of or tolerate homosexuality.
"Because gays and lesbians are required to serve in silence and in celibacy, the policy is almost impossible to follow," said Admiral Steinman. "It has been effectively a ban."
The officers were reluctant to discuss their personal relationships for fear of the consequences to themselves and loved ones. "I was denied the opportunity to share my life with a loved one, to have a family, to do all the things that heterosexual Americans take for granted," Admiral Steinman said. "That's the sacrifice I made to serve my country."
General Richard, who retired in 1991 after 32 years' service, including in Vietnam and the Pentagon, said: "No one knew I was gay when I was in the military. I suppressed my desires, and didn't allow myself to be who I am because there was too much at stake."
- New York Times