Progress

Remember 1993, when Bill Clinton tried to allow gays to serve in the military had the proposal blow up in his face? Yes, he could have handled it more deftly with the Congress, especially Senate Armed Services, and the brass — that is, he could have noticed that, whatever the Constitution says about “Commander in Chief,” he needed the permission of the Congress and the brass to make his decision stick — but the basic fact of the situation was the overwhelming popular opposition that would have made it impossible for the Democrats to sustain a Clinton veto of an absolute ban on service by homosexuals.

Well, some minds have changed. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (to which Kevin Drum drew my attention) 79% of Americans now say that openly homosexual men and women should be allowed to serve. (I can’t find a mainsteam media story on the poll, and Gallup’s account of it is subscriber-only, but the Gallup teaser confirms the account to which Kevin links.) It’s hard to say how much of that change is due to what has clearly been the broader trend toward acceptance of homosexuality generally and how much is due to the fact that we’re at war, short of Arabic translators, and the Defense Language Institute is firing Arabic translators for being gay, but I would have lost a ton of money betting on the results of that question.

Of course, our current President supports not merely the ban itself, but the provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice making same-sex relationships felonies: just as he supported the analogous law in Texas, the one just struck down by the Supreme Court. And, as far as I know, all of the current Democratic candidates, including Wesley Clark, are on the right side of the issue.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com