Today the Pentagon released a long-anticipated survey regarding military service by gay men and lesbians. The study states, as predicted, that service by openly LGBT personnel would have little to no impact on long-term military cohesion and effectiveness.
The study took place over a period of 10 months, and is expected to have huge implications for the future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—the 17-year-old controversial law prohibiting military service by openly gay and lesbian citizens. Officials familiar with the results of the study—which was based on responses by about 115,000 service members and 44,200 military spouses—said that a clear majority of respondents indicated opposition to the law, with 70% predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed, or no effect on their units. Furthermore, about 70% of respondents reported working with someone whom they believed to be gay or lesbian, and 92% of these reported having a neutral or positive experience in their unit’s ability to work together. The survey authors write that “both the survey results and our own engagement of the force convinced us that when service members had the actual experience of serving with someone they believe to be gay, in general unit performance was not affected negatively by this added dimension.” Over 60% of respondents said repeal would have a positive or no effect on their personal morale, and 67% believed there would be a positive or no effect on their personal readiness.
The survey was formally released at about 2:30 EST today, although reporters and lawmakers were briefed on some findings in advance. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen are expected to discuss the report this afternoon with the study’s co-chairs, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army General Carter Ham. The four men will testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
President Obama gained support from LGBT voters during his 2008 presidential campaign by promising to repeal the law. Since then, he has continued to pledge to do so, but through Congress rather than the judiciary (which most notably challenged the law’s constitutionality through the courts with Judge Virginia Phillip’s October ruling). Obama's slow progress has become an area of criticism and frustration from gay and lesbian allies, as there is only one month left before a new, more conservative Congress takes over. Furthermore, as USA Today writes, “debate over this issue has delayed passage by the Senate of the annual bill to fund the military,” the Defense Authorization Act.
Many Republicans are skeptical of the findings and say they are not ready to end the law. Although the House has already voted to overturn the law as part of a more general defense policy bill, a campaign remains in the Senate and has been led by Arizona’s John McCain, who argues that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is politically driven and dangerous during a time of war. Other Republicans suggest that there has not been enough time for a fair debate.
OutServe, an organization made up of LGBT members of the United States Armed Services, released a statement praising the results of the survey. “This report definitely answers the question of the impact of DADT repeal on the military. Specifically, knowing a soldier is gay has no negative impact on readiness,” said former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins. “We’ve known this for a long time. … Now the only thing keeping this policy in place is politics.” The Service Members Legal Defense Network also released a statement, calling the report “overwhelmingly positive and constructive.”
GLAAD applauds the government's initiative to consider the individual opinions and experiences of service members and their spouses through this study. We will closely monitor media coverage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and urge media outlets to continue affirming the stories of LGBT members of the military.