SECAF: Diversity, Moral Courage, and Barriers for Same-Sex Couples

In her address to the 2015 USAFA graduating class, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James called on the new Second Lieutenants to

have the moral courage to stand up for what is right.

It is a worthy, if nearly clichéd, reminder to graduates. It is curious, though, if some parts of American society or American government can remember what “right” — or moral courage — even is.

Notably, every news article covering the 23-minute speech by Secretary James (including the official ones) noted one specific phrase, in context and in bold below: 

In my opinion, our readiness in the future will depend in part [on] our ability to draw successfully the best talent from every sector of society, from every corner of this nation. And that’s why we are committed to across the board diversity and inclusion in our Air Force, to expand opportunities for women; its why we’re removing barriers for same-sex couples

The presence of homosexuals in the US military is, supposedly, a non-event. On the other hand, issues of religious freedom — including adverse administrative action, external demands for court-martial over religion, debates over laws in Congress and military policies, and the inability of some religious adherents to serve at all — are “events.”  Religious freedom clearly affects “diversity” in the US military, and, with the vast majority of the US claiming some form of religious faith, it certainly affects the ability of the Air Force to “draw…the best talent from every sector of society” — again, reference Sikhism.  Yet, interestingly enough, Secretary James brought up “same-sex couples,” but never mentioned religious freedom.

Secretary James continued by saying:

It’s why we’re developing leaders committed to an ethical and expert profession of arms, who will focus on a culture where everyone is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Everyone. In an era in which some in society are equating Christian expression with hate speech, and in a military culture in which some say there is a perception that religious expression isn’t always tolerated or permitted even where it is supposedly protected, the need to create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect is real — and it should include not just homosexuals, but also those troops with religious faith.  “Tolerance” works both ways.

Combined DoD coverage of all service academy graduations is available here.