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December 03, 2010

Report and military leaders urge ‘don’t ask’ repeal

Washington, D.C.--The Senate is holding hearings on the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, following the November 30 release of a Pentagon study asserting that there are few long-term issues with ending the de facto gay ban.

In the report, 70 percent of respondents said that lifting the ban would have a positive, mixed or no effect.

That is in stark contrast to 1947, when 80 percent opposed allowing black personnel to serve in their units, even if they had separate housing and dining facilities, or in 1981, when a study found that low-ranking enlisted sailors blamed female crew members for a drop in discipline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to call a vote this month, although Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have repeatedly expressed opposition to removing the policy, despite support for repeal from both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as President Barack Obama.

“This is without question a complex social and cultural issue. But at the end of the day, whatever the decision of our elected leaders may be, we in uniform have an obligation to follow orders,” said Mullen on November 30. “When those orders involve significant change, such as this would, we need to find ways to lead the way forward.”

The report emphasizes the need for “leadership, training, and education” going forward with the repeal process, while pointing to regulations already in place as a sufficient groundwork for moving forward with repeal.

“The military is a highly regulated environment,” the report says in Section XIII: Our Recommendations. “Overall, the purposes of standards of conduct are to promote good order and discipline, prohibit behavior that would bring discredit on the Military Services, and promote the customs, traditions, and decorum of the military and of individual Services.”

“Among many other things, military standards of conduct prescribe appropriate attire and personal appearance, prohibit unprofessional relationships, address various forms of harassment and related unprofessional behavior, and provide guidelines on public displays of affection,” it continues. “These standards of conduct regulate many aspects of Service members’ personal lives considered off-limits in civilian society. These regulations, policies, and orders are generally issued at the Service level, or by commanders.”

The report also notes the experiences of other nations’ militaries in integrating gay and lesbian personnel.

The working group examined the member nations of the International Security Assistance Force and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; of those, two had indeterminate policies on gay and lesbian soldiers, while only Bulgaria, Jordan, Poland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States bar openly gay people from serving.

Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom either explicitly allow gay and lesbian service members or have no ban on “homosexual conduct.” Israel also allows gay and lesbian service members to serve openly.

The working group focused on three countries it viewed as being culturally similar to the United States: Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

“The approach taken to the change in policy varied by country, but by and large they undertook what is best described as a minimalist approach,” the report says. “The usual pattern for implementing policy change started with an announcement of the policy change . . . and followed by an information packet for the chain of command to explain how the policy worked and how it was to be enforced.”

Gates and Mullen were expected to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 2 and 3.

“Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families - more than two thirds - are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian,” Pres. Barack Obama said in a release. “This report also confirms that, by every measure--from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness--we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.”

“And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy,” he noted.

The statement was issued on November 30, the 17th anniversary of the day DADT was signed into law in 1993.

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