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Gays in the U.S. Military: Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy

2012-AUG/SEP: Impact of the repeal, one year later

Part 1

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In this essay, LGB refers to Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals.

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Continued from a previous essay

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2012-AUG-20: The Republican National Convention finalized platform for 2012-NOV election:

The Republican platform included a section on the military, titled: "Supporting our Troops, Standing By Our Heroes." 1  Some of the "planks" are:

  • "We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness." [This is an apparent reference to their wish to reinstate the DADT policy as soon as possible and prohibit LGB servicemembers to serve openly.]

  • "We support military women’s exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions." [This would put women at a disadvantage, because servicemembers' main opportunity for advancement is through direct involvement in combat operations.]

  • "We affirm the cultural values that encourage selfless service and superiority in battle, and we oppose anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intra-military special interest demonstrations. We will support an objective and open-minded review of the current Administration’s management of military personnel policies and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action." [This may be another reference to reinstating the DADT policy.]

  • "We support rights of conscience and religious freedom for military chaplains and people of faith." [This appears to be a reference to the definition of "religious freedom" which is becoming used with increasing frequency. It refers to the religious freedom to denigrate and oppress sexual minorities and others.

  • "We will enforce and defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the Armed Forces." [This is an apparent reference to the vetoing of same-sex marriages and civil unions by loving, committed same-sex couples on military property.]

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2012-SEP-10: Palm Center issues report on DADT study:

The Palm Center is a research branch of the Williams Institute at the University of California's Law School in Los Angeles. They released a study on "openly gay military service" when the repeal of DADT approached its one year mark. They called it a "non-event." 2

They note that similar studies in the U.S. and in other countries during the last half century have produced zero evidence that there is any significant negative impact on unit cohesion or military readiness as a result of permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly. They note that internal studies by the U.S. military in the past had reached the same conclusion but had been condemned or suppressed at the time.

Their study was prepared by a group of 9 academics: two from the Palm Center, one from Columbia University, one from the University of Maryland, and five from various military academies. The interval covered ran from six to twelve months after DADT was repealed -- that is from mid 2012-MAR to SEP.

The report starts with two pessimistic quotes which were similar to those made in the 1940's when the military was racially integrated:

  • 2009-MAR: A statement signed by 1,167 retired admirals and generals predicted in part:

    "Repeal (of DADT) ... would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force."

  • 2010-MAY: A statement was issued by Elaine Donnelly, founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness -- the main national group advocating retention of DADT. She said, in part:

    "The flag and general officers for the military, 1,167 to date, 51 of them former four-stars, said that this law, if repealed, could indeed break the All-Volunteer Force. They chose that word very carefully. They have a lot of military experience… and they know what they’re talking about."

The Palm Center report stated that their research strategies:

"... included outreach to 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, to all major activists and expert opponents of DADT repeal and to 18 watchdog organizations, including opponents and advocates of repeal, who are known for their ability to monitor Pentagon operations. In addition, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 scholars and practitioners and 62 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch, as well as on-site field observations of four military units. We analyzed relevant media articles published during the research period, administered two surveys and conducted secondary source analysis of surveys independently administered by outside organizations. Our vigorous effort to collect data from opponents of DADT repeal, including anti-repeal generals and admirals, activists, academic experts, service members and watchdog organizations, should sustain confidence in the validity and impartiality of our findings."

Their findings were "... consistent with the extensive literature on the more than two dozen foreign militaries that have allowed LGB troops to serve openly. They found that the repeal of DADT caused:

  • "... no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale."

  • "... greater openness and honesty resulting from repeal [that] seem to have promoted increased understanding, respect and acceptance."

  • No impact on recruitment and retention levels.

  • Only two resignations from the military -- both by military chaplains.
  • There was no detectable change in levels of violence or physical abuse.

  • Morale for some servicemembers was reduced by the repeal of DADT. However, morale for others was increased. Overall there was no change.

  • Some servicemembers reported that the DADT repeal produced negative effects; others said that they observed positive effects. The report concluded:

    "... in no case did negative consequences outweigh benefits. In balance, DADT repeal has enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission." 3

The most obvious benefit of the repeal of DADT was not mentioned by the Palm Center. When DADT was in effect, LGB servicemembers had to continually look over their shoulders, fearing that somebody might "out" them and cause their expulsion from the military. Now, this is no longer a fear. They can serve openly as a LGB person without distraction. That is certain to result in an improvement in both their morale and effectiveness.

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2012-SEP-11: Bill to guarantee freedom of conscience of chaplains introduced:

Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jim Inhove (R-OK) introduced a bill into the federal Senate that is designed to guarantee military chaplains freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples because of the chaplain's personal religious beliefs. It would allow chaplains to freely refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages and civil unions. The bill would also prohibit such ceremonies being held at military bases. Such marriages and unions are currently permitted on bases that are located in states where they are legal. The military already has a policy of allowing chaplains to opt-out of conducting ceremonies that recognize same-sex relationships if they wish.

In 2012-JUN, the Associated Press discussed the findings of their study of how military chaplains from conservative Christian denominations were faring after repeal of the DADT policy. They found that there were only isolated incidents where military chaplains experienced conflicts. 4 As mentioned above, only two found the repeal so difficult to handle that they resigned from the military.

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2012-SEP-16: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, positive comments one year after repeal:

A few days before the first anniversary of the repeal of DADT, USA Today published an article about its impact. 4 The American public have recently seen some unusual events:

  • Gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers marching with a rainbow flag in gay pride parades.

  • LGB service members returning from deployment, hugging and kissing their significant others who are of the same gender.

The servicemembers took quite a risk in doing so. Even though there is overwhelming support for the repeal among the public, It is still quite possible that if a future Republican administration is elected at the federal level, they may attempt to reinstate DADT. Anyone who has come out of the closet and acknowledged their minority sexual orientation publicly would then be probably expelled from the military.

USA Today writes that:

"The Pentagon says repeal has gone smoothly, with no adverse effect on morale, recruitment or readiness. President Barack Obama cites it as a signature achievement of his first term, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, says he would not push to reverse the change if elected in place of Obama. ..."

Whether Mitt Romney would sign a bill to reinstate DADT that members of Congress had promoted and passed remains an open question.

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2012-SEP-20: President Obama comments on the DADT repeal's anniversary:

President Obama issued a statement saying:

"A year ago today, we upheld the fundamental American values of fairness and equality by finally and formally repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

Gay and lesbian Americans now no longer need to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love. It is a testament to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform that this change was implemented in an orderly manner, preserving unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.

As Commander in Chief, I’ve seen that our national security has been strengthened because we are no longer denied the skills and talents of those patriotic Americans who happen to be gay or lesbian. The ability of service members to be open and honest about their families and the people they love honors the integrity of the individuals who serve, strengthens the institutions they serve, and is one of the many reasons why our military remains the finest in the world." 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Supporting our Troops, Standing By Our Heroes," RNC platform committee platform, at:  http://www.gop.com/
  2. "First Study of Openly Gay Military Service Finds "Non-Event" at One-Year Mark," Palm Center, 2012-SEP-10, at: http://www.palmcenter.org/
  3. "One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness," Palm Center, 2012-SEP-20, at: http://www.palmcenter.org/ This is a PDF file. Although the document is dated SEP-20 it was actually published on or before SEP-17.
  4. "Furor fades a year after military's gay ban lifted," USA Today, 2012-SEP-16, at: http://www.freep.com/
  5. David Small, "President lauds smooth transition," OutServe magazine, 2012-SEP-20, at: http://outservemag.com/

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Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-SEP-17
Latest update: 2012-SEP-22

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