Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Supported by Soldiers, Says Army
Thursday, December 02, 2010 6:42 AM
A comprehensive study conducted by a senior U.S. Army general and the top legal advisor for the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would have little impact on military effectiveness and recommended repealing the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
The report, just released on Tuesday, is based on six months of research including responses from 115,000 active-duty military and reservists, 44,000 military spouses, 24,000 face-to-face interviews with service members at 51 bases around the world, and comments from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force as well as the chiefs of each branch of military service.
The report found that 70 percent of military service members said repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would have a positive, mixed, or no effect on working together to get the job done; 69 percent said they had already served with a military co-worker who they believed was homosexual. The Marine Corps expressed the most concern (40 percent to 60 percent had concerns about repeal), but the concern withered among service members who had experience serving with gay troops. Military chaplains were the most resistant to repeal.
"Consistently," the report says, "the survey results reported a large group of around 50 to 55 percent of service members who thought that repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would have mixed or no effect; another 15 to 20 percent who said repeal would have a positive effect; and about 30 percent who said it would have a negative effect."
Forces currently involved in combat received special analysis, and the report says, "Though the survey results demonstrate a solid majority of the overall U.S. military who predict mixed, positive or no effect in the event of repeal, these percentages are lower, and the precentage of those who predict negative effects are higher, in combat arms units. For example ... while the percentage of the overall U.S. military that predicts negative or very negative effects on their unit's ability to 'work together to get the job done' is 30 percent, the percentage is 43 percent for the Marine Corps, 48 percent within Army combat arms units, and 58 percent within Marine combat arms units.... However, the percentage distinctions between warfighting units and the entire military are almost non-existent when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with someone believed to be gay.... When those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92 percent stated that their unit's ability to work together was either very good, good or neither good nor poor. Meanwhile, in response to the same question, the percentage was 89 percent for those in Army combat arms units and 84 percent for those in Marine combat arms units."
The senior defense professionals assigned to oversee the research, U.S. Army General Carter Ham and Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, concluded that "the reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today's U.S. military, and most service members recognize this."
Ham and Johnson also concluded that the military's current standards of conduct regarding fraternizing, overt displays of affection, dress code, and professionalism provide an appropriate framework for repeal without adopting new ones, and that unit cohesion and identification supercedes race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. They said there is no reason to wait until current wars concluded to repeal the law, since most of the military they surveyed joined the service after 9/11 and have known nothing but a military at war.
Further, Ham and Johnson's research looked at countries where gays serve openly in the military - including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy and Israel - and found the transition had caused "little or no disruption."
The report recommends not extending full benefits to partners of gay service members. Military housing and survivor benefits would not be available to partners of gay service members, even if they are in a civil union. Ham and Johnson based that on the existing federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that declares that a legal marriage is between a man and a woman. They recommend the benefit extension possibly be revised in the future as the legislative landscape changes, but said it was essential to successful integration now to not provide gays with privileges that other unmarried straight couples would not have access to.
The report includes anonymous comments by gay military service members, including two that sum up the view of the report's authors:
"Personally, I don't feel that this is something I should have to 'disclose.' Straight people don't have to disclose their orientation. I will just be me. I will bring my family to family events. I will put my family pictures on my desk. I am not going to go up to people and say, hi there - I'm gay."
"I think a lot of people think there is going to be this big 'outing' and people flaunting their gayness, but they forget that we're in the military. That stuff isn't supposed to be done during duty hours regardless of whether you're gay or straight."