She drew another ovation, too, with her response to an Air Force major, a 20-year veteran of the service who had served three tours in Afghanistan, when he asked how she would protect the privacy of service members if she went ahead with her plan to let gays serve openly in the military.
Mrs. Clinton hewed closely to conduct regulations in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, saying that, under her, the armed forces would punish or discharge any straight or gay service member whose conduct was inappropriate.
Most gay people, she said, were not dismissed because of conduct, but because they had been seen attending a gay rights parade or socializing with openly gay people. She drew a comparison with female service members, noting that some of them had been harassed and mistreated, but said the proper response to such tensions was not to bar women from serving.
“I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they comply with the code of military justice and they have the appropriate behavior, they shouldn’t be disqualified from serving simply because they’re gay,” Mrs. Clinton said to applause.
The Air Force major, Gary Mathis of Cedar Rapids, said afterward that he appreciated Mrs. Clinton’s points about conduct, but that she had side-stepped his question about privacy-specifically, what she would do to ensure the privacy of male soldiers who shower, sleep and work out in the gym alongside other male soldiers.
“I don’t think her answer fully recognized the day-to-day realities of military life,” Major Mathis said. “You could extend her argument and say that you don’t need any separate facilities for men and women because as long as their conduct is appropriate with one another, there is no privacy concern.”