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Dick Cheney & Gays in the Military

Posted by Average Gay Joe at 8:40 am - February 19, 2008.
Filed under: Gays In Military,Military

While finishing a book I’ve been reading I was reminded of comments by Dan (GayPatriotWest) in a previous podcast on the subject of Vice President Dick Cheney’s views about the ban against gays serving in the military.  What really stuck in my mind was Dan’s belief that Cheney while SecDef under the Bush 41 Administration had called it an “old chestnut”, something I hadn’t recalled from that time.  I was pleased to come across more about Cheney’s views and actions on this during his tenure as SecDef in Shilts’ book which is the reason behind the following post…One of the more interesting aspects of Randy Shilts’ book Conduct Unbecoming that I have finally finished reading, are some of the people mentioned and their roles involving gays in the military. This is especialy true of Shilts’ telling of the mostly hostile atmosphere during the 1970s & 80s. Some of the people wouldn’t achieve much attention until years later, while others were already at the height of their fame and power. From Senator Sam Nunn, Democrat from Georgia who pressured a decorated Vietnam veteran that served on his staff to seek other employment because he was gay (pp.390-391), to then-Colonel Peter Pace who sought to have charges pressed against two Marines that had participated in an attack on patrons of a gay bar in Washington, DC (p.721). Nunn a few years later of course would infamously mount a fierce opposition to President Bill Clinton’s plan to repeal the ban against gays in military, while General Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stirred up controversy with some seemingly anti-gay remarks during an interview. Perhaps most interesting of all, however, is the role of then-SecDef Dick Cheney, who currently serves as Vice President admired by some some and reviled by others. While Cheney could hardly be considered a champion for gay rights, neither was he “homophobic” or antagonistic towards homosexuals either. It’s possible that his love for his lesbian daughter Mary Cheney may have been behind some of this. It is notable that he strongly defended his daughter when her sexual orientation became a political issue many years after he headed DoD and Vice President Cheney would publicly express support for same-sex unions. In the early 1990s, blatant hostility against homosexuals in uniform was rampant among top leaders in the Defense Department, which caused Cheney a number of difficulties during his tenure as SecDef. In 1990, he personally intervened to force the U.S. Navy to drop demands for repayment of tuition after expelling 3 gay Midshipmen from the Naval Academy, whose cases became cause célèbre for the gay rights movement (p.708). When disgruntled Navy officials attempted to quietly pressure another expelled gay Midshipman to repay his tuition, Cheney exploded in anger, fuming, “Goddamn it, I’ve told the military departments not to hit people up for back tuition!”. He quickly dispatched an aide to reiterate his previous order to both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Naval Personnel and the matter was promptly dropped. The extent of the purges of gay military personnel during previous administrations and the continued focus of top brass on expelling homosexuals disgusted Cheney and he ordered such “witch-hunts” to immediately stop. Unfortunately though, this order didn’t meet with a lot of success at the time. Perhaps the most telling episode of Cheney’s tenure as SecDef and how he related to gay personnel both civilian and military is when his aide Pete Williams was outed by a gay magazine (pp.739-740):

In August [1991], The Advocate ran a story “outing” a very high-ranking civilian Pentagon official. The official, generally referred to in the press as a senior spokesman for the Defense Department, had worked at the right hand of Secretary Cheney for many years, and few believed that Cheney was uninformed of the man’s orientation before the story appeared. The mainstream press generally declined to identify the man, eschewing the newly popular gay practice of revealing the sexual orientation of people who would prefer to remain hidden. But aggressive promotion by the gay magazine ensured that there were several stories about a certain unnamed official. This led to an unprecedented event in the history of gays in the military: A Secretary of Defense admitted that homosexuals did servce in the armed forces. In fact, in numerous interviews Cheney acknowledged that gays had always served, often honorably, but he tried to draw the distinction between a civilian serving on his senior staff and a soldier serving in a military environment where issues of order, discipline, and morale came into play. Cheney’s defense of the military policy was anemic, however, and he frequently referred to it as something he “inherited” from previous administrations. As for the notion that gays were security risks, Cheney called it “sort of an old chestnut”. As Congressman Barney Frank told one interviewer: “If Cheney defended the United States the way he defended this policy, we would have been captured by now – by Cuba”. Nevertheless, Cheney’s comments marked the first time in nearly a decade that anyone in the defense establishment had advanced any argument for the policy beyond the usual 123 words. [DoD Directive 1332.14 (1982)] What was most remarkable about the outing was what it said about shifting attitudes toward gays. The gay Defense Department spokesman kept his job. According to one senior Pentagon official, Cheney brought the matter up personally with President [George H. W.] Bush, who approved the man’s retention. And there was the marvel of a Republican Secretary of Defense from the conservative wing of his party saying he did not care about the private lives of his closest aides.

All in all very fascinating reading.– John (Average Gay Joe)

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12 Comments

  1. John, if you get the opportunity, you should read the Stephen Hayes (Weekly Standard) book on Dick Cheney –he expands on all this and more in excellent detail.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — February 19, 2008 @ 10:34 am - February 19, 2008

  2. "It is notable that [Cheney] strongly defended his daughter when her sexual orientation became a political issue many years after he headed DoD and Vice President Cheney would publicly express support for same-sex unions… during his tenure as SecDef [he anticipated all that with more good stuff]… "

    Whoa there, John.  We’re not ever supposed to realize, understand or remember that Cheney is pro-gay and very likely a good person.  You might make some readers think ;-)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — February 19, 2008 @ 12:02 pm - February 19, 2008

  3. I wonder if this isn’t just a matter of waiting until the last of the old guard retires and is replaced with people who grew up knowing gay people, having out gay relatives and even serving with gay and lesbian soldiers who everyone knew about even if they all pretended they didn’t.

    I wonder what the debate will look like if Clinton or Obama is elected and keeps the campaign policy of repealing DADT?

    Comment by Houndentenor — February 19, 2008 @ 5:01 pm - February 19, 2008

  4. #3 – Schweinhundtenor, how much more wrong can you be?

    The "old guard who has gay relatives" could very well sum up both Mr. & Mrs. Cheney – who, BTW, were photographed very proudly with their grandchildren from daughter Mary and her partner.
    Please name one Dhimmicrat who would do the same.  I bet you can’t.
    Regards,Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — February 19, 2008 @ 7:56 pm - February 19, 2008

  5. I don’t know if their daughter has kids, but I can name one:  Dick Gephardt.  I don’t think we need to mix political differences in with the realities of the many parents on the left and the right standing by their kids who are gay.  There are others, like Phyliss Schlafly, who do not.

    Comment by John — February 20, 2008 @ 6:56 am - February 20, 2008

  6. #4  And Peter Hughes contiunues to be a Friday turd at a Saturday market……

    Comment by David — February 20, 2008 @ 12:56 pm - February 20, 2008

  7. #4 There’s no reason to be insulting.  I haven’t called you names and you insist on doing so to me.  It’s cheap but typical.

    BTW, I must have missed the press confrence in the last 8 years when Cheney called for ending DADT.  Both Dem candidates are against the policy.  Both Republican candidates are for it.  The contrast is very clear.

    And yes, it does seem like more Republican politicians have a gay relative (Gingrich’s sister, Mosbacher’s daughter, Cheney’s daughter) than Democrats (Gephardt is the only one I can think of).  I wonder if that’s reality or just perception.

    BTW, you can’t claim the Cheneys are proud of their lesbian daughter when in 2000 Lynn denied that Mary was gay on the Today show.   

    Comment by Houndentenor — February 20, 2008 @ 1:41 pm - February 20, 2008

  8. I was in the Navy  (as a SeaBee) from ’80 – ’89 and never heard of any anti-gay witch hunts in my 750+ person command.
    We knew several who were suspect, but they rotated out in normal fasion without the lawyers gettng involved.

    Comment by Kurt P — February 20, 2008 @ 10:48 pm - February 20, 2008

  9. >>BTW, I must have missed the press confrence in the last 8 years when Cheney called for ending DADT.<<

    Do you really think that is appropriate for a Vice President to do?  We have no idea what Cheney has said or done behind-the-scenes but contrary to leftist myth, he isn’t the man in charge.  If you read my post I was clear that I do not consider the man to be a "champion" of gay rights, but neither do I consider him hostile to them either.  From what we do know, he demonstrated this as SecDef and as VP at least when it came to his daughter.  There’s enough to criticize the man for without adding imaginary ones. 

    >>Both Dem candidates are against the policy.  Both Republican candidates are for it.  The contrast is very clear.<<

    Yes and no.  Bill Clinton first raised this in 1992 and look how that turned out.  It was his party’s platform which all the Dem bigwigs signed off on when they supported the man, yet somehow this was ‘forgotten’ when the matter was raised after Inauguration.  I’ll grant you that the Huckster would never support repealing DADT, although he’s slippier than an eel so who knows what he’d do if he thought he’d benefit politically from it?  As for McCain, not my candidate of choice for certain but there’s a slight possibility if handled correctly.  All in all, I would agree with you concerning the GOP leadership, however, which seems to be too beholden to the extreme Right.  Yet while I would be glad to see "President Obama" successfully repeal DADT, assuming he didn’t wimp out like Bill Clinton did, I do not believe he is the right man for the job at this time.  Great orator, yet hardly any record to judge his leadership during a crisis.>>And yes, it does seem like more Republican politicians have a gay relative (Gingrich’s sister, Mosbacher’s daughter, Cheney’s daughter) than Democrats (Gephardt is the only one I can think of).  I wonder if that’s reality or just perception.<<I have no clue.  Normally I don’t keep track of this on either side.

    >>BTW, you can’t claim the Cheneys are proud of their lesbian daughter when in 2000 Lynn denied that Mary was gay on the Today show.<<

    Ever think that she protecting Mary’s privacy, just like a mother who loves her daughter?  Perhaps Mary wasn’t ready for the insane publicity this would cause.  You are blinded by partisanship and cannot see the Cheneys for the family that they are.  Put aside politics and look at them as human beings who love each other.  If I can do this with the Gephardts, why can’t you with the Cheneys?

    Comment by John — February 21, 2008 @ 10:47 am - February 21, 2008

  10. #9.  Mary had been out for years.  She had even worked for Coors as a liaison to the gay community to combat the growing movement to boycott Coors from gay bars because of the Coors families large finacial donations to anti-gay groups.  I’m tired of people acting like someone outed Mary Cheney.  She had not only been gay, she had profited from being gay.  Protecting what?  She would only need protecting if there was something wrong with being gay.  there’s not.  It is simply a fact. 

    Comment by Houndentenor — February 22, 2008 @ 3:55 pm - February 22, 2008

  11. Don’t be deliberately obtuse.  There is an enormous difference between being out to one’s family, firends, and co-workers, and being out internationally as the daughter of the Vice President of the United States.  The fact of the matter is that you have no idea what was going on in Cheney family, but just assume the worst because Mary’s parents didn’t attend some press conference wearing PFLAG t-shirts.  Those are Mary’s parents, not yours, and from all accounts they love her very much and have stood by her both publicly and in private. 

    Comment by John — February 23, 2008 @ 3:41 pm - February 23, 2008

  12. [...] Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President; Secretary of Defense, Bush Sr. Administration [...]

    Pingback by Box Turtle Bulletin » A Noble Common Trait — April 16, 2008 @ 8:13 pm - April 16, 2008

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