Guest post by David Beemer
LTJG Thorne going public on national TV while on active duty 20 years ago doesn’t disqualify him to sit on the bench today. I actually believe fighting for what you think is right, regardless of the consequences, is exactly the quality we should all aspire to.
Society changes slowly. For example, Galileo was found guilty of heresy in 1633 for supporting Copernican astronomy. He spent the last nine years of his life under house arrest for something that he knew to be true via his own eyes.
In 1992 I didn’t have an opinion on gays serving. I knew gays served and the policy at that time was pretty straightforward. You’re gay, you’re out. I would NOW argue the regulation that prohibited gays from serving was fundamentally wrong. Like Galileo, the LTJG Thornes of this world who knew the regulation to be wrong, stood up to be heard and paid a heavy price twenty years ago and again last Tuesday.
LTJG Thorne likely didn’t know that there were roughly 40,000 active duty gays serving in 1992. But he did know that speaking out on national TV was a violation of the UCMJ Article 133, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. The beef is this showed poor leadership and decision-making skills when he opted to “come out” on national television. I would argue, based on what I read in the Board of Inquiry transcript, that he was an outstanding officer, an up-and-coming leader, had a strong moral compass and was doing what history will one day show to be in the highest tradition of the naval service.
One thing that keeps rattling in my mind from reading the Board of Inquiry transcript is this: By 1992, no other major organization in the US other than the US Military was actively discriminating against gays for just being gay. If it wasn’t for service members like LTJG Thorne, I’m certain there would still be a ban on gays in the military, who now and have always numbered in the tens of thousands.
David Beemer has been a Virginia Beach resident since 1991. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1987.