If you’re any kind of news junkie, you know that Peter Pace doesn’t have much use for gay people. But hell, he’s not the first high-ranking official to spout off on this issue, is he? What’s the big deal?
Big deal is that Peter is U.S. Marine General Peter Pace, who also serves as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The AP story says Pace “likened homosexuality to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces.”
Welcome to 1957!
Needless to say, gay right groups are plenty pissed at Peter’s proclamation. A spokesperson for the Legal Defense Network called the remarks “outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces.”
But there is hope.
If you surf the AP wire today you’ll find another story that carries an underlying message of harmony between the gay and straight worlds. Seems that straight folks are moving into San Fran’s Castro District, long a haven for the gay community. A central point of the story is that society is losing its NEED gay neighborhoods, since gay lifestyles are largely in the open these days.
Unless, of course, you choose to serve your country’s armed forces.
So, if you’re Peter’s public affairs practitioner and you inherit this peck of pickled publicity, what do you do?
I feel for any PR professional asked to defend a position that seems so morally indefensible. But if you’re a lowly captain at the Pentagon, you’re hardly in a position to tell the top brass to grow up. Speaking up for gay rights in this case could be career suicide.
As I often tell my students, choose your employers carefully. As their advocate, it’s your job to deliver their key messages. And too often, you don’t have any influence on the policies from which those messages grow.
If those messages and policies keep you awake at night, it’s time to move on.