But documents at the Library of Congress show that George Washington – the first U.S. president and commander-in-chief -- opposed homosexuals serving in the military.
In 1778 at Valley Forge, Gen. George Washington approved the dismissal of a soldier for “attempting to commit sodomy” with “abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes,” according to Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress.
In his Saturday night speech to the Human Rights Campaign, President Obama criticized Republicans for failing to defend a homosexual soldier who asked a question at a recent Republican presidential debate.
Several people in the audience booed – not when the soldier introduced himself as homosexual, but after he asked the Republican candidates if they, as president, would “circumvent the progress” made by homosexuals in the military.
A number of people, Rush Limbaugh among them, said the boos were aimed at the question – or maybe the change in military policy, but not at the soldier himself.
Nevertheless, President Obama cast his Republicans opponents as small-minded for failing to respond to an American soldier being booed, which is how Obama described the event.
“We don’t believe in a small America,” Obama told the Human Rights Campaign. “We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the president of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed.”
“We don’t believe in that,” Obama said. “We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since.”
“You want to be Commander-in-Chief?” Obama said. “You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain told ABC’s “This Week” that he probably should have said something after several audience members booed. “In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had” that it would , yes, that probably — that would have been appropriate," Cain said.
"I happen to think that maybe they were booing the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal more so than booing that soldier," Cain added.
On Mar. 10, 1778, at Valley Forge, Pa., Gen. George Washington approved the dismissal “with Infamy” of Lt. Frederick Gotthold Enslin for “attempting to commit sodomy” with another soldier.
Washington’s papers at the Library of Congress include the following order:
“At a General Court Martial whereof Colo. Tupper was President (10th March 1778) Lieutt. [Frederick Gotthold] Enslin of Colo. Malcom's Regiment tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier; Secondly, For Perjury in swearing to false Accounts, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th. Article 18th. Section of the Articles of War and do sentence him to be dismissed from the service with Infamy.
“His Excellency the Commander in Chief [George Washington] approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return; The Drummers and Fifers to attend on the Grand Parade at Guard mounting for that Purpose.”