Gays-in-Military Hearings Focus on Morale

SO far, Senate hearings on President Clinton's proposal to allow homosexuals in the armed forces have been determinedly dull and academic. That could change on March 31, as senators hear testimony about whether the presence of avowed gays and lesbians could affect the fighting esprit of military units.

This question goes to the heart of the military's objection to known homosexuals in their midst. The bond among fighting troops would be damaged by the suspicion gays could cause, many unit commanders say.

Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia, chairman of the hearings, has already drawn the ire of homosexual groups by suggesting that the current interim policy, under which recruits aren't asked their sexual orientation, might be the basis for solving the issue. Gay groups feel that under such a regime they would remain second-class military citizens, because homosexuality would still technically be grounds for discharge.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut may have inadvertently revealed why this issue has become so controversial. "None of us approaches it with a completely open mind," he said.

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