General Peter Pace has come under heavy fire from gay advocacy groups and the first serviceman wounded in Iraq, after he made homophobic remarks in a newspaper interview.
Eric Alva, the first soldier to be wounded in the current Iraq conflict, who came out as gay last month, slammed the General’s comments.
“Judging gay men and women in the military for factors unrelated to their fitness to serve undermines our military’s effectiveness,” said Sgt Alva.
“Certain leaders’ bigotry should not be a rational basis for discrimination.
“This kind of prejudice is going to continue to have a direct impact on our national security as we allow qualified gay men and women to lose their jobs for no good reason.
“This policy, and General Pace’s bigotry , is outdated, unnecessary and counter to the same American values our soldiers are giving their lives for each and every day.”
Alva was awarded a Purple Heart award for bravery by the President after stepping on a landmine in Iraq in 2003, breaking his right arm and damaging his leg so badly that it had to be amputated.
He is now a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest organisation campaigning for LGBT rights in America, and has vigorously campaigned for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The army chief Gen Pace described homosexual acts as “immoral” in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, likening them to adultery, and backing the Pentagon’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to homosexuality.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which was first introduced in 1993, makes it illegal for a gay or bisexual person serving in the armed forces to be openly gay or bisexual.
Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN) is a group which has legally represented some of the thousands of servicemen forced out of the military because of their sexuality.
They said: “General Pace’s comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces.”
The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, added: “What is immoral is to weaken our national security because of personal prejudices.
“General Pace’s comments were irresponsible, offensive and a slap in the face to the gay men and women who are currently serving their country with honour and bravery.”
However, senior aides to the general have asserted that he will not be apologising for his offensive statement.
The Williams Project at the University of California, Los Angeles has estimated that not only are there currently 65,000 gay and lesbian troops in the US military, but there are another one million gay American military veterans.
According to official Pentagon figures, 726 soldiers were dismissed for failing to hide their sexuality in 2005 alone.
Since 1993, when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was first implemented, 11,082 members of the Marines, Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Air Force have been discharged for being openly gay or bisexual.