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Excerpt of an Interview with Tom Snyder on NBC's "Tomorrow Show" on the Subject of Homosexuality

March 19, 1976

Q. What about the presence of homosexuals in the Armed Forces of the United States? There was a very widely reported case here involving Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who's being drummed out of the Air Force after, Lord knows, how many tours of duty and, Lord knows, how many years in service in Vietnam. He felt he got a raw deal. Leaving his case aside, just the general principle of a man or woman serving honorably in the services, being found out or disclosing themselves, their homosexual preferences. Should they be kicked out?

Governor Carter. Well, there's only one thing that bothers me about this. I favor the end of harassment or abuse or discrimination against homosexuals. There's one aspect of employment that concerns me, and that's when the homosexual would be employed in an area which is highly sensitive as far as national security is concerned and not have any relationships erf a homosexual nature with other people. It may be that the avowed, open homosexual wouldn't have any reticence about those sexual acts but where the partner in the act might be very highly susceptible to blackmail, but with that one, single exception, I would favor the termination of harassment or discrimination against homosexuals.

Q. And considering too, Governor, I've read a number of pieces, as I'm certain you have, about how sex was used in the Second World War, the Korean War. Heterosexual behavior has left some people open to blackmail. Doesn't the sword cut both ways, whatever one's sexual preference?

Governor Carter. Sure it does, and I think my position is fairly advanced on that subject, but I do have a hangup about that particular thing, where the blackmail would be possibly used to the detriment of our nation. But I can see that you have an argument there about heterosexual behavior too.

Q. Well, it's not that I have an argument for it, it's just that I had Matlovich with us one night, and as he said, "I spent 5 or 6 years for my country in Vietnam." He said, "I am not a person who tries to convince other people to adopt my lifestyle. Why should I pay a penalty for it?" And I thought that was a good question.

Governor Carter. It is, and it may be that somebody like Matlovich wouldn't have any reticence, or be subject to blackmail, but in areas that involve the Armed Forces or other security matters of our country, and highly secret things, it may be that someone with whom he had sexual relationships of a homosexual nature would be subject to severe blackmail. I don't think the heterosexual act would be as much of an embarrassment to a man in the security areas of our country as would a homosexual act.

Q. Unless he had a wife and two kids who didn't know about it, sir.

Governor Carter. That's true, but even then, I think the blackmail effort would be much more, the blackmail attempt might be much more successful in the case of homosexual acts.

Jimmy Carter, Excerpt of an Interview with Tom Snyder on NBC's "Tomorrow Show" on the Subject of Homosexuality Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347589