The strangest argument yet against gays in the military

Ted Kennedy's new memoir reveals an unusual fear from the days when "don't ask, don't tell" came to pass

Topics: Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senate, War Room,

The administration still hasn’t said when it plans to end the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, a policy that has forced more than 12,500 people out of service since 1993. The arguments against the ban are pretty plain: it may be hurting the military’s readiness; it’s forced key translators to leave the military; it’s unfair; it’s not even supported by the public.

But now thanks to Ted Kennedy’s new memoir, published today and excerpted in Politico, one of the strangest arguments in favor of the ban has come to light. In the book, Kennedy relates the tale of an Oval Office meeting early in the Clinton administration with all the Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Kennedy writes:

The last senator to speak was Robert Byrd, and he came up with a new one on all of us… He informed us, with many ornate flourishes, that there had been a terrible problem in ancient Rome with young military boys turned into sex slaves. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think the story involved Tiberius Julius Caesar being captured and abused and used as a sex slave. He escaped and then years later he sought vengeance and killed his captors.

Clinton, Kennedy said, replied that the Ten Commandments don’t mention homosexuality at all, but in the end, Congress wound up opposing his proposal to allow gays and lesbians to serve, leading to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” plan — which started out as a compromise. Needless to say, no one seems likely to use that particular Rome-related argument if President Obama decides to lift the ban. But it certainly helps underscore the bizarre logic behind a policy that even Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time it was put in place, now thinks should be revisited. The Senate will hold hearings on the policy this fall.

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>