WASHINGTON–Momentum to abolish the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is gaining after the release of the anticipated Pentagon report asking nearly a half-million service members about ending the ban on lesbians and gay men serving openly in the military. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said repealing the law will not harm military readiness.
“The Pentagon survey makes it clear that lesbians and gay men serving openly in the military are not the problem,” said NOW President Terry O’Neill. “The problem is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which should have been repealed long ago.”
The nearly year-long survey was ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, asking military service members their views on a repeal of the law, and what the military needed to do to implement it. The survey was sent to 400,000 service members, and 115,000 active and reserve service members responded. According to the results, 69 percent of respondents said they worked with someone who they believed was lesbian or gay. Of that number, 92 percent stated that they felt working together was positive.
Only 30 percent of those surveyed opposed the repeal. But as the survey authors concluded, those concerns were “exaggerated” and “driven by misperceptions and stereotypes about what it would mean if gay service members were allowed to be ‘open’ about their sexual orientation.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has led the Republicans’ opposition to repeal, claiming it will have drastic consequences and change morale during a time of war.
“The point of the Pentagon report was to find out whether military service members feel that working with those who are openly lesbian or gay has an impact on combat effectiveness, and the answer is a resounding no,” said O’Neill. “How many more polls and surveys must be done before the Senate Republicans agree to end this discriminatory policy?”
A Pew research poll released Monday confirms what the rest of the country has been saying all along — that 58 percent of the public favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military. And a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests more than 75 percent support lesbians and gays in the military, a support rate higher than at any time since the policy took effect in 1993.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already said he will seek a vote this month to include the repeal on a defense spending bill; but for now, all eyes will be on Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mike Mullen, and the report’s two co-authors, who will testify Thursday at the Senate Armed Services Committee. All four military leaders have been supporters of the repeal, and they are expected to tell the committee that the repeal will not disrupt or harm the military.
“We are on the verge of an historic breakthrough for equality for the LGBT community, and this is a long time coming,” said O’Neill. “We have seen too many lesbian and gay service members forced to end their promising careers simply because they couldn’t be open about their sexuality. With the survey completed, NOW urges our members and supporters to call their Senators to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and end this discriminatory practice once and for all.”