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Sen. Carl Levin: Okay to Ask Troops, “Are You Comfortable Taking Showers with Gay People?”

Do ask, do tell.

1:43 PM, Jul 13, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said this morning that he doesn't object to surveying the troops' opinions on repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and that repealing the law would result in the full integration of gays in all areas of the military, including combat roles.

At a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Levin, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he hasn't read the actual survey sent to 400,000 members of the military, but he thinks a survey is okay as long as the questions are balanced.

"If the survey were properly worded and got to all of the issues, including the [troops'] feelings about discrimination [against gays], I wouldn't have a problem with it. I think it's okay," Levin said. He explained that there should be "questions in that survey which not just ask people, 'Are you comfortable taking showers with gay people?'--assuming you're not gay yourself, by the way. But 'What do you think about discrimination against gays?'"

Levin continued:

Some people will say, I'm giving you a hunch, "I'm not particularly comfortable, if I'm not gay, taking a shower with someone who is."  There may be people who have that attitude, which is disappearing very rapidly, by the way, thank God, in this country.

But I would bet you there are some people ... who would also say, "I should[n't] feel that way." Or that, "It's wrong to discriminate against gay people."

Though Levin said it's okay to send out a survey, he also said that he "can understand the resentment ... that occurs in the gay community" because such a survey was not conducted when the military ended the segregation of African-Americans or when women were allowed to serve in non-combat roles.

Levin said the survey should only be done to help the Defense Department "implement a decision that they have made--that this discriminatory policy should end," and that it should be written in a way that "the people filling out the survey don't get the impression that" they can "veto" repeal.

After the breakfast meeting concluded, Levin told me that the survey was simply being done to "get people's attitudes" and would not be used to justify separate facilities for gays open about their sexual orientation. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week that the survey may show that "facility adjustments" may be needed to accommodate gays. In response to uproar from gay rights groups, Morrell clarified to CBS that while the military would not create separate facilities, it may add shower curtains.

Currently, the military has separate facilities for male and female service members and prohibits women from serving in combat roles. Levin said that the Defense Department would not have the discretion to keep gays open about their sexuality out of combat.

"I think so," Levin replied when asked if repeal would mean full integration of gays in combat roles. "I would hope so. Otherwise it's," he trailed off, before concluding that "surely" repeal of DADT would allow gays to serve in combat roles.

While polls show an overwhelming majority supporting repeal of DADT voters are evenly divided on the question of whether straight and gay troops should be required to live together in military facilities.

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