Don't Ask, Don't Be

A Houston-area man leads the fight against the ban on gays in the military

Citing the Urban Institute's estimate of 65,000 gay men and women in the military today, she says, "I don't see the army collapsing right now."

Vasquez won't say if she kissed a woman. She will say that she was a great recruiter and that recruits are hard to come by these days.

But would Vasquez and Cook even be welcome if they won their suit?

Cook was discharged one month before he was to 
serve in Iraq.
Daniel Kramer
Cook was discharged one month before he was to serve in Iraq.
Moskos: DADT protects the right to privacy.
Courtesy of Northwestern University
Moskos: DADT protects the right to privacy.

While opponents of the gay ban cite anecdotal and obscure polls alleging an increasingly tolerant attitude among service members, the Congressional Research Service's May 2005 report relied on data showing otherwise.

In a 2005 Military Times survey of 1,423 subscribers, 65 percent said they opposed openly homosexual people serving in the military; 25 percent said they were for it; 9 percent had no opinion. According to a Times pollster, their subscribers are generally older, high-ranked career officers.

The numbers are nearly reversed in a 2004 CNN/Gallup poll of the general public: 63 percent were in favor of openly gay service members; 32 percent opposed; and 5 percent had no opinion.

People on both sides of the issue acknowledge that gays have always served in the military and are still serving. Gay witch-hunts have always been a concern and are technically easier under the current policy.

Halley, whose 1999 book Don't offers the most in-depth analysis of DADT, says the policy's selective enforcement creates a climate of suspicion. In the course of her research, she came across a commanding officer whose definition of homosexual propensity included short-haired women wearing black watches. You simply don't know who is going to be targeted when. Therefore, a good way to avoid suspicion is to be openly hostile.

"It's kind of mandated homophobia," Halley says from her home in Massachusetts. "Everyone has to ratchet up the degree to which they're not gay."

Proving how not gay you are has embarrassed the military in the past.

In 1919, under the auspices of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commanders at the Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island conducted a thorough investigation of alleged gays in their midst. It started out as a covert operation by Chief Machinist's Mate Ervin Arnold, without navy authorization.

According to Lawrence R. Murphy's account of the scandal in his book Perverts By Official Order, Arnold gathered a pool of potential volunteers in the basement of an X-ray room and told them their jobs would be to "obtain information and evidence pertaining to cocksuckers and rectum receivers and the ring leaders of this gang…"

Their duties, if necessary, would include performing sexual acts with these men.

Strangely, Arnold had no trouble getting volunteers.

The undercover paramours were given pocket money, motorcycles and the opportunity to wear civilian clothes in trolling for their marks. Targets included a sailor nicknamed Speedy whose oral technique was so good he could "draw [a man's] brains down through his penis." Another sailor, known as Galli Gurci, was a "two-way artist" who could be "screwed in the rectum and take it in the mouth." Many of these trysts occurred in the base's YMCA.

When the undercover agents testified at the subsequent trials, they were able to prove better than anyone that these alleged homosexuals were in fact homosexual.

In his testimony against Maurice Kreisberg, Floyd Brittain said, "I know that Kreisberg is guilty of immoral practice, such as sucking pricks. My only experience with him is that he sucked me off."

Ultimately, 19 service members were discharged or court-martialed. News of the investigation never would have gone beyond the base if it weren't for the base commanders' idea to use the same tactics with civilians, including a popular local minister. After that, the Newport Naval Station gave up the cruising business.

Cook was raised in Lake Jackson and lives there today with his grandparents. He's studying nursing at Brazosport College.

Sometimes he and his grandfather will stay up all night swapping army stories they've told a hundred times before. They were both ground-surveillance intelligence: Cook in Kuwait and his grandfather in Lebanon.

When he was growing up, Cook's time was divided mostly between church and baseball. He played in a Little League team pridefully named the Astros.

"I was normally a pitcher or a catcher -- no pun intended," Cook says.

There was never any question that Cook would join the military. He grew up hearing the men in his family talk about their military days, and he wanted in. He signed up fresh out of Angleton High School because, he says, "I wanted to serve my country and do my American duty." It was April 11, 2001.

Back then, he didn't realize he was gay. That came up later, after battling the Southern Baptist fire-and-brimstone in the back of his brain. But he kept quiet and never had any problems until that day in the Mojave.

By that time, he had spent six months in Kuwait and earned an Army Achievement Medal. He says he knows it sounds weird, but he was looking forward to serving in Iraq.

When Cook's sergeant said he'd kill any crew member he found out was gay, it put Cook in a tough spot. If the sergeant found out Cook was gay, there could be trouble. However, reporting the threat would out Cook and he'd be discharged.

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