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Veteran: Letting gays serve openly preserves 'integrity'

Posted December 19, 2010

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— A former Marine captain living in Raleigh says that doing away the military's ban on openly homosexual troops is a major civil rights victory.

"This is similar to when they lifted the policy on discriminating with blacks in the armed forces," Joe Soto, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, said.

Eight Republicans, including North Carolina's Sen. Richard Burr, joined the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate to vote Saturday to overturn the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

President Barack Obama's signature on the bill will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

"It doesn't mean they are going to come screaming out of the closet," Soto said. "What it really means is that when you make the commitment to sacrifice for your country, you don't have to sacrifice you integrity to do it."

As a gay man, Soto struggled in his military career in the years before the DADT policy made it legal for homosexuals to serve, albeit at the cost of hiding their sexuality.

"If anyone found out, you were immediately kicked out, and they could ask" about your sexual orientation, he said. "This was back when it was illegal to be gay and in the service."

For Soto, the breaking point came when he had to sign discharge papers for a woman being court-martialed for being a lesbian.

"When that happened, they handcuffed her and took her away. And that was a moment in my life that I will never forget," he said. "It was at that moment when I realized I couldn't do it anymore and resigned my commission."

Soto went on to help found an online support group for other gay and lesbian Naval Academy Graduates. The group became the focus of a documentary, "Out in Annapolis."

He believes that no longer making gay and lesbian troops hide will make the military stronger.

"They don't have to be worried someone is going to discover who they really are," he said. "When you are fighting with someone alongside of you, you don't want them to have that burden on their shoulders."

Overturning DADT means that military policy and law is catching up with changes in the larger American culture, Soto said.

"I think we're going to look back and say, 'What took Congress so long to do this?'" he said.


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  • Zoey0815 Dec 21, 2010

    Bigotry is fear and ignorance. Most of the people I know that hate gays don't actually know a gay person.
    Gay people have learned the hard way how narrow-minded American people are. I don't think any of them are going to join the military screaming, "I'm gay!"

  • genralwayne Dec 20, 2010

    "I think they should send all the gays to the front lines until enough of them die to match the number of heterosexuals that have died fighting for their freedom!"

    Wow! Deja Vu! That's the same thing the ignorant masses said about African Americans during Viet Nam. Times change - Bigots never do.

  • prn13norm Dec 20, 2010

    I think they should send all the gays to the front lines until enough of them die to match the number of heterosexuals that have died fighting for their freedom!

  • driverkid3 Dec 20, 2010

    First, I am a 62 year old heterosexual woman. I do not care who dates who and all that. If a gay person wishes to serve their country, what is the problem with that. You people that are opposed to this don't realize that gay people are just as loyal to their country as anyone else, and are willing to lay thier lives on the line as anyone else. 99% of the gay people I have known in my life don't care to "convert" anyone else, so there is no need to be afraid of them. The absolute only thing you should care about is that they can save your hindquarters in a battle situation. Would ANY of you opposed to this that found yourself in a bad situation stop and ask the person that would be willing to save your life if they were gay or not? If they were, would you tell them to go away? No? I didn't think so. Quit it with the foolishness and let these folks serve if they want to. Like so many things in life, it is THEIR choice, NOT yours.

  • fatchanceimwrong Dec 20, 2010

    I'm confused by references to gay and lesbian. I know lesbian applies to females, so does gay apply only to males? I thought lesbians were gay also. Is there a term I'm missing? If gay women are lesbians, what are gay men to be called? Just gays?

  • genralwayne Dec 20, 2010

    As a microcosm of our democratic society, the military services have stood at the cutting edge in the struggle for racial, religious and gender equality. It is fitting that they are now leading the way in setting the standard, for lack of a less ridiculous term, for sexual equality. It is beyond time to set aside the old stereotypes and prejudices. If a person is willing and capable of serving his or her country their sexual orientation should matter as little as race, religion, gender or creed. In a free society, it can be no other way.

  • m4ncsu Dec 20, 2010

    Glad to see the end of DADT, Richard Burr should some real guts and backbone in his vote, I'll certainly consider voting for him next election.

    Thats the funniest thing I read all day. There is a greater likelihood that I will walk on Mars than you will vote for Richard Burr. Laughable.

  • genralwayne Dec 20, 2010

    After twenty-two years as an Air Force criminal investigator, I can honestly say that I had no problem whatsoever working alongside several male and female servicemembers who were gay. In most cases, they were a good deal more professional and dedicated than their straight counterparts. You holier-than-thou's should really be ashamed of yourselves. But, then, it's far easier to blindly hate a ridiculous stereotype than it is to get to understand the person. Right?

  • garychapelhill Dec 20, 2010

    You have it precisely backwards. Only the gay ones can now speak. If a dissenter values their career they will be forced into silence.

    Are you for real??? Hate sure does twist a mind. You should be ashamed of yourself for peddling lies (or even worse, actually believing them)

  • ThinkChick Dec 20, 2010


    You have it precisely backwards. Only the gay ones can now speak. If a dissenter values their career they will be forced into silence. And the chaplains, rabbis and imams - what will they be allowed to say?

    The lawyers are licking their chops. So much for the First Amendment they will be defending together.