Military Soft On Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

60 Minutes: Is Military More Tolerant Of Gay Members In Wartime?

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"Our purpose in the military is not social engineering or whatever else you want to call it. It is about fighting and winning the nation's wars," says Army Major Daniel Davis, a Gulf War veteran and now a specialist in battlefield tactics.

Davis says allowing gays to serve openly would hurt unit cohesion. Davis came to the 60 Minutes interview out of uniform, emphasizing that in defending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" he was not speaking for the U.S. military.

His view is that military troops are generally conservative and allowing gays to serve openly would offend them and jeopardize battle effectiveness. "If you introduce something in there that's going to cause chaos and division, then that's going to prohibit that unit from forming the bonds and the cohesion and that teamwork that's necessary to really win and do well in hard combat," he argues.

"What do you think would happen if a unit with a gay person went out into a combat situation?" Stahl asks.

"In my view, men are going to die, units are going to fail that would otherwise not fail, that would otherwise not die," Davis says.

"Didn't they say exactly the same thing about blacks?" Stahl asks.

"You know, I've heard that many times," Davis replies.

"And then cohesion was achieved," Stahl says.

"However, if you have a moral or religious issue, you cannot order me to bond and cohese with that person," Davis says. "Because he's morally repugnant to me."

But Espinoza says if the policy were changed, the troops would have to fall in line. "You can believe that black people are not as smart as white people - you can believe that and still serve in the U.S. uniform. You can believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen - you can believe that. But you cannot bring those beliefs to your job front," she says.

Each of these gay men was, to some degree, open in their units: Steve Lorandos was a nuclear submarine mechanic with the Navy; Brian Fricke, a Marine Corps avionics technician who served in Iraq; David Santos, a Navy-trained Arabic linguist, and Army-trained Korean linguist Jarrod Chlapowski.

Chlapowski says "at least" 100 people knew he was gay, but that he wasn't discharged.

"The only thing that ever happened to me was my leading petty officer came up to me and he said, 'You know, I think that everything about homosexuals is disgusting. It makes my skin crawl. But, we still love you,'" Lorandos recalls.

"Why do you think the people who knew didn't tell on you?" Stahl asks Fricke. "That was required."

"They don't care," he says. "You know these are our peers. This is the generation that also -- like the 'Will and Grace' generation," Fricke says.

"That's what we kind of refer to them as; they grew up with it in the media. Gays and -- they understand -- they see gay people as people. As humans, as Americans. They don't see gay people as people with a disability or a disease," Fricke explains.

These men say the military's top brass is out of touch with the troops, and with the American public. Recent polls show three-quarters of the country now favors allowing gays to serve openly, which is what the British military has done since the year 2000.

"I don't believe for a second it's affected the fighting capability of our forces," says Admiral Sir Alan West, who was head of the Royal Navy back then and is now an anti-terrorism minister in the British government.

Asked if the process was smooth or difficult, West tells Stahl, "Actually, to be quite honest, there's been almost no trouble. The people who have said, 'Oh, well, you know, young soldiers and young sailors will never accept this'…they actually accepted it much more easily than silly old blighters like me."

"You actually told us that you think that the product or the outcome of this is actually making the military better," Stahl remarks.

"I think it is better. I think it is better," he replied.

Asked why, West says, "Because people feel they can be open about who they are. And they can really throw themselves totally into what you want to achieve with your force."

Talk about being open, the Royal Navy now allows sailors to march in gay pride parades, in uniform. And gay couples are even eligible for married military housing.