Most servicemembers say they are comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians, according to a Zogby poll released in December.
This doesn’t mean, however, that most troops want to see gays serving openly alongside them in combat.
Troops across Europe gave their takes on gays serving openly in the military just days after retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili came out Tuesday in support of such a change in policy.
Troops interviewed by Stars and Stripes were mostly supportive of the idea, and some hoped the policy would change. Others cited such things as possible harassment and religious beliefs as reasons for being opposed.
“Some people are ignorant and think that gays are different people, but they’re not,” said Senior Airman Fredy Pasco, an information manager journeyman at the Joint Analysis Center at RAF Molesworth, England.
For that reason, Pasco said, allowing gays to serve openly isn’t a good idea and “may cause problems.”
Among those who do not want to see the current policy overturned is Air Force Maj. Richard Brown, a political/military analyst for the Joint Analysis Center on RAF Molesworth, England. Asked if he thought gay and lesbian servicemembers should be able to serve openly, Brown said, “I don’t think so because the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong.”
Army Capt. Stephanie Meyer at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany was less inclined to let her personal feelings on homosexuality dictate her stance on gays serving openly.
“I’m not going to put my moral beliefs on anybody else,” Meyer said. “If we’re going to talk about EO (equal opportunity) and all this kind of culture in the military, we need to keep our personal perspectives out of it. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the mission, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Others echoed Meyer’s points or took them even further.
“For me, it doesn’t really make a difference. I have no trouble right now. If the policy changed, I wouldn’t have any trouble,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Trever Scott at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Master Sgt. Shannon Adams of Aviano said he doesn’t think the policy has any effect on him.
“I’ve seen the policy change since I’ve been in and … really, I didn’t notice a difference,” he said. “I don’t want to say that people don’t have an opinion on it, but I don’t think it affects most people.”
“I guess being in the U.S. Army, where we defend freedom, to place restrictions on people who are physically capable of doing the job is discrimination,” said Spc. David Powell, a member of the 32nd Signal Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany.
Both Powell and his wife have openly gay friends, he said, and for him, serving alongside openly gay troops is “not an issue.”
Other opinions were more pragmatic, if not supportive, of serving with gays.
“Can the soldier do the job? What they do behind closed doors should never affect me. That’s how I look at it,” said Army Master Sgt. James R. Mosher, at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“We are to be a reflection of our society,” Mosher said. “If our society’s saying we are not discriminating against gays and lesbians, then we shouldn’t discriminate against gays and lesbians because we are a reflection of society.”
Stars and Stripes reporters Steve Mraz, Sean Kimmons and Kent Harris contributed to this report.