Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Gay former Dutch MP calls U.S. fight over gay soldiers “weird”

During a recent appearance in San Francisco gay former Dutch Member of Parliament Boris O. Dittrich told the Bay Area Reporter that for many people in the Netherlands, which has allowed gay soldiers to serve openly for years, the current fight over the subject in the United States “is really weird.”

Dittrich sat down with the B.A.R. Tuesday, March 16 prior to his speech before the Commonwealth Club’s LGBT member-led forum. In the wide-ranging interview, much of which was published in Thursday’s paper, one subject that didn’t make it into the printed story was his thoughts on gays in the military.

He said for the last four years out LGBT Dutch soldiers have served alongside American military personnel in Afghanistan where they oversee peace-keeping and rebuilding projects in Uruzgan province. The nearly 2,000-member Dutch contingent is expected to be withdrawn this August.

“Dutch gay soldiers have been working jointly with the U.S. military and American soldiers,” said Dittrich, who ended his political career three years ago and now heads up Human Rights Watch’s LGBT advocacy program from New York. “There has never been an instance where the U.S. military wouldn’t work with Dutch soldiers because some are gay. It has never been an issue.”

Dittrich’s comments came two days prior to testimony former NATO Supreme Allied Commander John Sheehan gave at a U.S. congressional hearing on doing away with the U.S. military’s ban on out gay soldiers Thursday, March 18 where he claimed there was a causal link between having homosexuals in the Dutch forces and the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war.

Sheehan’s statements have infuriated Dutch leaders, with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende calling the remarks “outrageous, wrong and beneath contempt” at a news conference he held today (Friday, March 19).

Coming prior to the controversy, Dittrich’s responses now seem prescient. He had told the B.A.R. that the argument over keeping the anti-gay U.S. policy, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” not only seems ridiculous to people in his home country but also is negatively impacting U.S. forces on the ground overseas because highly valued and well-trained LGBT soldiers are being unnecessarily hounded out of the armed services.

“The discussion in the U.S. continues to be far-fetched and not convincing at all,” he said. “It is counterproductive and puts American soldiers’ lives at risk.”

During his public talk Dittrich said that when he served in the Dutch parliament he visited his country’s military personnel deployed in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once again he expressed puzzlement at the debate over DADT taking place in America.

“It is no problem to be gay or lesbian in the Dutch military. Nobody talks about it. One does their work and are fighting the Taliban,” he said. “Here in the U.S. I don’t see what the issue is. The discussion in the U.S. is quite symbolic. I really hope as soon as possible the U.S. will repeal DADT.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, March 19, 2010 @ 1:14 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Comments are disabled at this time.

Follow The Bay Area Reporter
Newsletter logo
twitter logo
facebook logo