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DADT Survey Results: Showdown Starts Over Repeal of Military's Gay Ban

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David Wood
Chief Military Correspondent
"I don't want some fag-bag putting up posters of naked men.''
-- Marine Corps lance corporal, interviewed in Somalia,1993

The long-simmering struggle over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' boils into a new but perhaps-not-final phase Tuesday with the release of a Defense Department survey of troops and military families about allowing openly gay volunteers to serve in the military. The Pentagon report, which will outline steps to implement repeal of the current gay ban, kicks off a week of congressional hearings, and perhaps a contentious Senate vote on repeal next week.
Not surprisingly, Tuesday's Pentagon report (scheduled for release at 2 p.m. EDT), will reveal that things have changed in the ranks over the past two decades: today, the vast majority of troops (70 percent under age 30) either favor repeal of the law banning open gays from military service, or don't care one way or another.
On Thursday and Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen will repeat their plea that members of the Senate (average age: 63.1 years), who blocked a vote on repeal earlier this fall, join the House in voting (234-194) for repeal.
Also testifying Thursday will be Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, who led a Defense Department task force that oversaw the survey and recommended ways to implement opening the ranks to gays with a minimum of disruption. Ham, a former enlisted paratrooper, commands Army troops in Europe.
For drama, the week's climax may come Friday, when the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will be asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee for their personal opinions on repealing the gay ban. Watch for Gen. Jim Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, to forcefully advocate keeping the gay ban in place to avoid potential "disruption'' and erosion of unit cohesion during wartime.
Amos said this fall that repeal would be "a distraction to Marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan.'' But like the other service chiefs who have murmured vague doubts about the gay ban and the associated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' (DADT) policy, Amos has left himself an out, suggesting he would go along with the troops if they feel comfortable with repeal.
All the service chiefs and other senior officers have stressed that, whatever their own personal feelings, their service personnel would obey the law.
Amos will be egged on by one of DADT's most staunch Senate defenders, John McCain of Arizona. Over the weekend, McCain blamed President Obama for stirring up trouble by urging repeal of the law while troops are "fighting and, tragically, some of them dying'' in Afghanistan. Speaking on CNN on Sunday, McCain said DADT repeal "was a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for presidency of the United States.'' The current system, McCain insisted, "is working.''
Gates and Mullen have said DADT is wrong and immoral because it forces gays to lie – hiding their sexual orientation -- in order to serve their country.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to bring the issue to a vote during this lame-duck session of Congress, perhaps as early as next week. Repeal activists are buttonholing potential supporters, while opponents of repeal are working to stiffen Senate resistance. Repeal of the law, a provision of the massive defense spending bill, would enable the Defense Department to lift what is left of DADT and begin implementing changes recommended by the task force. Last fall the House approved repeal of the law, so Senate agreement would effectively overturn it.
But while the Senate may fight a last-ditch effort, it seems inevitable that gays and lesbians will be allowed to serve openly in the military ranks. In September, DADT was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. district court judge, who issued a global injunction halting Pentagon investigation and discharge of gay service members. The injunction was put on temporary hold by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, technically allowing enforcement of DADT to continue.
But Gates, meantime, has chipped away at enforcement of DADT, tightening procedures for investigations and restricting discharge authority to a team of the most senior Pentagon civilian officials. These administrative changes are said to have slowed discharges of gay service members to a trickle. More than 14,000 gay service members have been discharged since 1994, including 428 last year. A Pentagon spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said the department does not have numbers for 2010.
Behind the congressional maneuvering, the public stands firmly in favor of repeal. In the most recent poll, released Monday, the Pew Research Center said 58 percent of Americans favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, with 27 percent opposed. The telephone (cell and landline) survey Nov 4-7 of 1,255 adults found support for repeal highest among Democrats (70 percent) and independents (62 percent), with Republicans divided (40 percent favor, 44 percent oppose).
Opposition to repeal was strongest among white evangelical Protestants (48 percent) and among Republican respondents who identified themselves as Tea Party enthusiasts: 48 percent said they opposed repeal of the gay ban, 38 percent favor repeal.

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If a mandatory draft is ever put into effect, certain citizens seeking a deferment will be forced to serve if this policy is changed whether they want to or not.

November 30 2010 at 9:07 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

For me i think the DADT is the best, i spent twenty years in the Army and had their been open gays in their i would of never stayed in i woud of got out and if you ask the troops i am sure most of them feels the same waywould you want to walk in the barracks aand see a picture of ones boy friend nude you have to keep them and thats ok but for heaven sake keep it to their self if it is reversed your going to end up with a gay Army cause no straight 8 would stay in with a groop of gays

November 30 2010 at 1:39 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Isn't it funny that the only countries that don't allow gays to serve openly in the military are fundamentalist islamic nations and the good old USA. The problem isn't gays, the problem is once again RELIGION !!!! Fundamentalist countries let their beliefs in myths cloud their decision making. As the rest of the world becomes more secularized they will advance, while the US and the Muslim Nations can fight their holy wars all the way back to the dark ages.

November 30 2010 at 1:05 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Let's be realists here. I don't think that most people have a problem with gays serving their country, but what it boils down to is (more or less) feeling sexually intimidated in any way. By housing gay men with straight men and gay women with straight women, is the same as if you threw all straight men and women in together, 100% co-ed. As a woman, I would not want to be forced into intimate situations (showering as a group, bunking together, etc.) with a lesbian anymore than I would with a man who *may* be sexually attracted to me. It would be grossly uncomfortable to be at your most vulnerable as someone ogles you, especially when the attraction isn't mutual. In many instances, the luxury of privacy just isn't an option. During war, on the frontlines, soldiers *have* to be 100% focused. Women aren't permitted to be on the frontlines because it would cause too much distraction. Some are every bit as equipped to fight and carry/lift heavy items (machinery, wounded comrades, etc.) as their male counterparts, but there can't be any sexual distractions. The solution is to remove any from the equation before it can even start. So I think DADT needs to remain in place.

November 30 2010 at 11:21 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to aleighcat's comment

You brought up another unrelated form of discrimination----women on the frontlines. As you say, there is no evidence many cannot perform as well as men, and many likely would be better. No one--man or woman--should be on the frontlines unless they are trained, capable and mentally attuned to the task (they want to be there). Stamina and desire are important. "Distraction" should not be an issue in the heat of battle, but survival and success of the unit. It's just another form of discrimination that rests in some minds and used as an excuse to discriminate on the basis of gender.

November 30 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

The above comment that you wouldn't want to be in a room where gays are also present, only shows your insecurity. Even if you were in a co-ed situation, you will always find someone attracted (or disgusted) by you or you by them. And to think that all gay men or women want to bag you any more than another straight man or woman does is absurd! Just because one is gay or lesbian doesn't mean you want to sleep with everyone. How ignorant!

December 01 2010 at 12:07 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

For civilians to determine this issue is no different than a room full of men deciding whether or not a woman must carry a pregnancy to term. These decisions should be left to those who are walking the walk. Get off the little stuff, and start addressing the issues that are affecting the growth and prosperity of America, and Her citizens.

November 30 2010 at 10:19 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
John Vilvens

How was the question put to get a answer they wanted. The judge that tried to force her own ideas on the military needs removed. Since the sixty judges have over stepped thier jobs. They are not here to make law. They are there to inforce the law as it is. Any judge that trys to inact thier own law should be taken down and judges should do as there job as discribed.

November 30 2010 at 9:11 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to John Vilvens's comment

Legislatures (e.g. Congress)can make any law they so please. It is the responsibility of the courts to rule as to whether or not the law is constitutional. It is called separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. The federal judge did not make law, she simply ruled the current law is unconstitutional. This is our system, and it has worked well. We do not need a judiciary to simply "rubber stamp" the laws of Congress. You should be thankful for it. In some countries there is not such a check and balance.

November 30 2010 at 10:48 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

John not one question in the survey ever asked if DADT should be repealed, and the survey was only done by 180,000 people, and not all of those were military members

January 06 2011 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just remarks: I am looking at this picture above. These soldiers are yelling or singing in front of the White House - they are soldiers? Isn't there military law, where an active soldier is not allowed to demonstrate - period. Has that law been lifted? It seems to me that a few of them need to be put on a diet - some look as they would be above their allowed weight limit.

November 30 2010 at 7:46 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

To be in any Armed Force Service for the United States of America at the moment while DADT is still active is a disgrace. I am disgraced by the way our Commander in Chief has held up to his word. He hasn't as of yet. When Judge Phillips made her decision to call DADT unconstitutional, she was right. Yes I am a service member in the US Army. I am proud to be a Gay Service member. It has been in my opinion that not all units will have issues with the fact that we (LGBT service members) stand up and show that yes we are ourselves always have been ourselves and we can do a job equal if not some superior to our straight brothers and sisters. But does it matter that we might be able to do a better job than our straight service members? No, it does not. What matters the most is we stick together and we fight together and we love together. Our country was founded on the freedom to express ourselves, freedom of religion, freedom to live basicly. So what has happened over the years of we no longer have the freedom that the constitution gave us(LGBT). I am looked down upon by many but they have no idea that as they look down on me I stand to fight. To ensure that my country that I have loved for so many years is kept free. I believe in my Army Values and yes because I must lie each day to hide who I am is not my fault its the constitutions fault for telling me I could be who I wanted to be no matter what its Freedom I am looking for. So as December 1st, 2010 starts to dawn on so many service members fighting a war on Terrorists,, Do you think they are wondering well is my buddy gay? No, he isn't he is wondering if I die today will my buddy tell my family how my last minutes were like, or to tell them my last dieing words. This is what we as Americans must look at before we say no repeal. We must repeal DADT now. I stand up to my country I WANT MY FREEDOM BACK AND YES I AM A PROUD GAY SOLDIER. I fight in Afghanistan for our freedom in America.

November 30 2010 at 6:42 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Daniel's comment

Daniel, You are the first soldier on one of these boards I am proud of and want to say thank you to!! I am behind you 200% bro, and I hope they wake up and take DADT back!! If Congress doesn't do it, someday the Supreme Court WILL! It's just a mater or time ... it's sad that when it comes to life or death, love or hate, etc. people are so ignorant to see the reality! Here we are fighting about WHO is FIGHTING FOR ALL OF US! Some hate gays and lesbians while we should be hating, or at least not liking, the enemy. GAYS AND LESBIANS ARE NOT THE ENEMY!! THEY, LIKE DANIEL ARE FIGHTING FOR US ... WAKE UP PEOPLE AND BE PROUD OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR SOLDIERS!!! Thank you Daniel and I hope and pray you weren't "found" and kicked out by now for your admittance.

December 01 2010 at 4:50 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

Very typically, the predominantly white, evangelo-fascist right wing of the republican/teabag party have shown themselves to be bigots; even cutting off their collective nose to spite their face, refusing to accept LGBT citizens to put themselves in harms way in the armed services of these United States. The rights' collective homophobia presumes that men and women, who have served with courage and honor under DADT, will suddenly abandon their oaths of service and embark in some orgiastic frenzy of approval. The premise is flawed from the outset by the militarys longstanding code of conduct regarding fraternization for sexual purposes between enlisted persons: presumably heterosexual, but applying to all. Beyond that there is nothing but irrational fear and rejection of a minority group, which stands in violation of the constitution and will be rescinded to the eternal embarrassment of persons standing on the wrong side of the law. The shame now is not in being a gay man or lesbian seeking to serve without being forced to live a lie, but in forcing these men and women to perpetrate this fraud that can find them discharged for that same required lie.

November 30 2010 at 3:50 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Over the past 40 years, our nation has become a more tolerant place and more free society where differences are mostly accepted and celebrated. Not to say that we are perfect; remember our charge as Americans is to always "seek a more perfect union." However, it is safe to say that in the past decade, society's attitudes have experienced a seismic shift -- especially in the area of gay and lesbian equality. Opposition to gays and lesbians serving in military service comes mostly from those who are no longer serving in the military or from those who have never served and those who served in the military in the 60's and 70's, such as Marine Commandant Amos, were living in an entirely different world than today. Unfortunately many “old school” generals like General Amos are still living within the confines of old military ideology and have yet to realize that most recruits entering military service today are more open and accepting of gays and lesbians. Resisting change is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) in the military. These same “old timers” fought and screamed in opposition to racial integration. They resisted gender integration yelling it would effect unit cohesion, recruitment and retention. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. Once the order was implemented the professional men and women in our militaries snapped to attention and made it work. Today’s military men and women, more than half of them under the age of 25 have grown up in a different environment, one of increasing acceptance of gay and lesbians. Many high schools and colleges have gay and lesbian organizations, “coming out” has ceased to be a curiosity; and much of the remnants of homophobia have simply evaporated with the passage of time. National survey confirm these trends. The recently commissioned survey among actively serving troops and their family members indicates overwhelming support for allowing openly gays to serve openly alongside their straight counterparts. The survey results could be best summarized as: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Care. That's right; the No. 1 response to the survey of our troops was that they don't care if someone openly gay serves in their unit and are comfortable with openly gay service members in their ranks. Let's face it, had President Truman surveyed the troops before he integrated the military, do you really think African-Americans would have been welcomed in the time of segregation and Jim Crow? Of course not! That the survey was done was egregious, but it apparently has now backfired. In combat, competence, bravery, and common sense tend to trump partisan politics. And in the midst of two lengthy wars, this lesson seems to have been adopted by the nation these warriors are trying to protect. Some 75% of the American people support openly gay troops, and with the majority of our servicemen and women comfortable with openly gay colleagues, what possible excuse could be left for Congress to maintain this outdated and bigoted policy? It is time for President Obama to adopt Truman's mantra, "The buck stops here," and show some leadership to assure that this policy is repealed by year's end. To the foes of gay and lesbian equality, our nation is saying to you, "Stifle it, Get over it." The country is ready for equality for gays and lesbians. Get on the train or get left behind the station, isolated in the narrow-minded and antiquated world of Archie Bunker

November 30 2010 at 12:19 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

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