Myths and falsehoods on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In the wake of President Barack Obama's call for the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy in favor of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces, Media Matters for America reviews the myths and falsehoods conservative media figures have pushed in their efforts to prevent repeal.

MYTH: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is working

MYTH: Repeal would undermine morale and unit cohesion

MYTH: Military experts oppose the repeal of DADT

MYTH: The public does not support repeal of DADT

MYTH: Right-wing attacks on DADT repeal are not anti-gay

MYTH: DADT repeal would adversely affect retention

MYTH: Experience of other nations aren't relevant because "nobody counts on" their armies

MYTH: Only progressives support the repeal of DADT

MYTH: DADT repeal would expose servicemembers to greater HIV risk

MYTH: Don't Ask, Don't Tell is working

  • In a February 8 Weekly Standard editorial headlined "Don't Mess With Success," William Kristol approvingly cited Sen. John McCain's reference to DADT as a "successful policy" and wrote: "Whatever its muddled origins and theoretical deficiencies, the fact is 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' works pretty well at accommodating the complex demands of a war-ready military nestled in a liberal society."

REALITY: Over 13,500 service members reportedly fired under law, including decorated officers and those in "critical occupations." According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a "non-partisan, non-profit, legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by" the DADT policy, "[m]ore than 13,500 service members have been fired under the law since 1994," based on Department of Defense data. That number includes numerous decorated officers and, according to a 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, at least 54 servicemembers who had received Arabic language training, and more than 750 servicemembers in "critical occupations."

Report: Almost 4,000 LGB additional military personnel would have been retained each year if they could serve openly. According to a March 2007 estimate by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law focused on sexual orientation law and public policy, "an average of nearly 4,000 LGB military personnel each year on active duty or in the guard or reserves would have been retained if they could have been more open about their sexual orientation."

Williams Institute and Palm Center: DADT cost $555.2 million through fiscal 2008.

  • Palm Center commission pegs cost at $363.8 million through fiscal 2003, Williams updated to $555.2 million through fiscal 2008. A blue-ribbon commission that included former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and was convened by a research institute, the University of California at Santa Barbara's Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM, now the Palm Center), found in a February 2006 report that "the cost of implementing" DADT from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 2003 was "at least $363.8 million." In a January 2010 Williams Institute study, Gates updated the commission's DADT cost estimate through fiscal year 2008, finding that the cost of DADT discharges from fiscal 1994 through fiscal 2008 was $555.2 million in 2009 dollars.
  • Palm Center identified "several errors" in lower GAO figure. A GAO report issued February 2005 found that "over the 10-year period [1994-2003], it could have cost DOD about $95 million in constant fiscal year 2004 dollars to recruit replacements for servicemembers separated under [DADT]. Also, the Navy, Air Force, and Army estimated that the cost to train replacements for separated servicemembers by occupation was approximately $48.8 million, $16.6 million, and $29.7 million, respectively." The Palm Center-convened commission subsequently criticized the GAO for including "several errors in compiling and processing its data." From its study:

The Commission has found that GAO made several errors in compiling and processing its data. In particular, (1) GAO did not incorporate into its estimate any value that the military recovered from gay and lesbian service members prior to their discharge; (2) GAO omitted various costs such as the costs of training officers that could have been included; and (3) GAO used various unrealistic figures in its estimates. For example, even though GAO itself reported in a 1998 study that the average cost to train each enlistee was $28,800, in the current study GAO accepted the Army's claim that its average cost to train an enlisted service member is $6,400.

As discussed throughout this report and in the section on future research, we were not able to correct for all of the deficiencies in GAO's report. For example, similar to GAO, we were unable to obtain reliable data for some cost categories such as the cost of recruiting officers. That said, we were able to correct for what we believe were the most important oversights in GAO's methodology, both in terms of GAO's overestimations and underestimations of the actual cost of implementing "don't ask, don't tell." In particular, we were able to (1) estimate the value that the military recovered from gay and lesbian service members prior to their discharge, and credit the military with this value, hence lowering the overall estimate of the costs of implementation; (2) include various costs that GAO omitted such as the cost of training officers; and (3) use more realistic figures based on publicly-available data including GAO and Pentagon data.

DADT can impair effectiveness of gay and lesbian servicemembers. In a 2004 study based on "thirty in-depth interviews with gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers who were deployed to the Middle East," the Palm Center's Nathaniel Frank found that "[n]early all the gay and lesbian service members interviewed for this study reported that the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy impeded their capacity to bond with their peers, to develop trust within their units, to discuss basic personal matters, and to achieve maximum productivity in their working lives as fighters and support personnel." Frank further reported: "The policy frequently deprives gay and lesbian service members of access to support services, including medical care, psychological assistance and religious consultations, because they have no guarantee that personnel in these offices will hold their words in confidence."

Mullen, Prakash: Current policy impairs integrity of U.S. military. In February 2 Senate testimony, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated of DADT: "No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution." Similarly, in an essay published in the 4th quarter 2009 issue of Joint Force Quarterly -- which is "published for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University" -- Col. Om Prakash wrote that DADT "has led to an uncomfortable value disconnect as homosexuals serving, estimated to be over 65,000, must compromise personal integrity. Given the growing gap between social mores and the law, DADT may do damage to the very unit cohesion that it seeks to protect." The essay won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition.

MYTH: Repeal would undermine morale and unit cohesion

  • In his February 8 editorial, Kristol claimed that "questions about the effect of open homosexuals on unit morale and cohesion in training and combat situations remain relevant."
  • In a February 3 Wall Street Journal op-ed, foreign policy journal editor Mackubin Thomas Owens argued against repealing DADT by claiming it would "undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion, good order, discipline and morale."
  • Family Research Council (FRC) senior fellow Peter Sprigg asserted during the February 2 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball that "the presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion."

REALITY: Unit cohesion argument "not supported by any scientific studies." In his award-winning essay, Prakash wrote of DADT: "[T]he stated premise of the law -- to protect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness -- is not supported by any scientific studies."

At least 25 nations -- including many U.S. allies -- allow military service by openly gay men and lesbians. According to the Palm Center, as of February 2010, 25 nations allowed military service by openly gay men and lesbians, including U.S. allies Australia and Israel and the following North America Treaty Organization member countries: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

GAO: Other countries say allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly "has not created problems in the military." In a June 1993 report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied four countries that allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military -- Canada, Israel, Germany, and Sweden -- and found that military officials said "the presence of homosexuals has not created problems in the military because homosexuality is not an issue in the military or in society at large." It also found that "[m]ilitary officials from each country said that, on the basis of their experience, the inclusion of homosexuals in their militaries has not adversely affected unit readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, or morale." GAO wrote that it chose those four countries to study because they "generally reflect Western cultural values yet still provide a range of ethnic diversity" and have similarly sized militaries.

Palm Center: "No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military." In a February 2010 report, the Palm Center reviewed the experience of the 25 nations whose militaries allow gay men and lesbians to serve and found: "Research has uniformly shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness. No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military."

None of the 104 experts interviewed for study believed decisions to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in UK, Canada, Israel, or Australia undermined cohesion. In a 2003 article for Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Aaron Belkin wrote that CSSMM (now the Palm Center) had conducted a study of the impact of the decisions to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military in the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, and found: "Not a single one of the 104 experts interviewed believed that the Australian, Canadian, Israeli, or British decisions to lift their gay bans undermined military performance, readiness, or cohesion."

Gen. Petraeus comments undermine argument that repeal would hurt unit cohesion. In a February 21 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, was asked whether "soldiers on the ground in the field care one way or the other if their comrades in arms are gay or lesbian." Petraeus replied, "I'm not sure that they do," adding that "I served, in fact, in combat with individuals who were gay and who were lesbian in combat situations and, frankly, you know, over time you said, 'Hey, how's, how's this guy's shooting?' Or 'How is her analysis,' or what have you."

Participants in creation of DADT reportedly admit "unit cohesion" argument was "based on nothing." In a March 2009 Huffington Post piece, Frank wrote of the process that led to the creation of DADT in the early 1990s:

One group staffer provided a wealth of research to the flag officers in charge, but said it was never even considered. He said the policy was created "behind closed doors" by people who were totally closed to lifting the ban, and that it relied on anti-gay stereotypes and resistance to outside forces.

Charles Moskos, the renowned military sociologist and close friend of Sen. Sam Nunn, advised the MWG [Military Working Group], and was ultimately credited as the academic architect of "don't ask, don't tell." While he said publicly that the problem with openly gay service was that it would threaten "unit cohesion," he told me privately something quite different: "Fuck unit cohesion," he said, "I don't care about that." For Moskos, the last serious defender of "don't ask, don't tell," the ban was about the "moral right" of straight people not to be forced into intimate quarters with gays. Shortly before he died last summer, he admitted that he clung to his policy, in part, because he was afraid of disappointing his friends if he "turncoated."

[...]

The MWG was also supposed to take recommendations from working groups convened by the individual services. Rear Admiral John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy was a participant in the talks about whether to lift the ban in 1993. Hutson told me the assessment of gay service was "based on nothing. It wasn't empirical, it wasn't studied, it was completely visceral, intuitive." The policy, he said, was rooted in "our own prejudices and our own fears." Hutson now says "don't ask, don't tell" was a "moral passing of the buck."

Another advisor to the MWG was Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, a deeply homophobic evangelical who became vice president of the Family Research Council. While Maginnis admitted that he found homosexuality "morally repugnant," he cast the question of gay service in terms of "unit cohesion" for what he called "political reasons"--because he knew this approach would be more effective than moral tirades against equal treatment for gays. Maginnis, who believes gays are "unstable" hedonists who can't control themselves and are tainted by something called "gay bowel syndrome," was only the tip of the iceberg: in fact the "unit cohesion" rationale was an elaborate strategy created by a network of evangelical military officers and supporters who knowingly sold an anti-gay policy rooted in religion as though it were essential to protecting national security. And for too long, the nation drank the coolaid.

MYTH: Military experts oppose the repeal of DADT

  • In a January 6 Townhall.com column, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios decried Obama's call for the repeal of DADT by stating that "military experts from the top down have argued continually that open homosexuality will harm unit cohesion and have a detrimental effect on morale."
  • In a February 2 Washington Times column, Frank Gaffney wrote that the "case" against repeal of DADT "will be made by more than 1,100 senior retired military officers (see FlagandGeneralOfficersfortheMilitary.org) who will speak for colleagues still in uniform who cannot easily engage in the public debate."

REALITY: More than 100 retired generals and admirals have called for DADT's repeal. The Palm Center has posted on its website a list of more than 100 retired generals and admirals who "support the recent comments of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, who has concluded that repealing the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy would not harm and would indeed help our armed forces."

Mullen said repeal is "the right thing to do." In February 2 Senate testimony, Adm. Mullen stated:

Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.

I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.

Gates: "I fully support" decision to repeal DADT. In February 2 testimony, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated: "Chairman, last week during the State of the Union Address, the president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as 'don't ask, don't tell.' He subsequently directed the Department of Defense to begin the preparations necessary for a repeal of the current law and policy. I fully support the president's decision."

Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has called for repeal. During a February 14 interview on ABC's This Week, when asked whether it is "time to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military," former Defense Secretary and Vice President Dick Cheney replied, "I think the society has moved on. I think it's partly a generational question. I say, I'm reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they're the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our, of our units, and that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they're still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission? When the chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's, it's time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen said that."

Gen. Powell stated his support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve, cited change in "attitudes and circumstances." A February 4 Washington Post article reported: "Retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, whose opposition to allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military helped lead to adoption of the 'don't ask, don't tell' legislation 17 years ago, said Wednesday that he now thinks the restrictive law should be repealed. 'Attitudes and circumstances have changed,' Powell said. 'It's been a whole generation' since the legislation was adopted, and there is increased 'acceptance of gays and lesbians in society,' he said. 'Society is always reflected in the military. It's where we get our soldiers from.'"

Gen. Shalikashvili called for repeal of DADT and open service by gays and lesbians. In a January 2007 New York Times op-ed, John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when DADT was implemented, wrote: "I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces." He also wrote, "By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on solving the nation's most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban."

Gen. Jones: "[Y]oung men and women who wish to serve their country should not have to lie in order to do that." In a February 14 interview on CNN's State of the Union, Gen. James Jones, currently the National Security Adviser, stated, "I think that what Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff articulated in testimony is the right thing to do. I think the president has signaled his intent. This is a policy that has to evolve with the social norms of what's acceptable and what's not." Asked whether it's "time to lift" DADT, he replied, "I think times have changed. I think I was very much taken by Admiral Mullen's view that young men and women who wish to serve their country should not have to lie in order to do that."

NewsHour found at least one general on list Gaffney cited says he didn't sign on to it. On a June 2009 edition of PBS' NewsHour, Ray Suarez reported (accessed via Nexis):

In March, [Gen. Charles] Baldwin and more than a thousand retired senior officers sent the president a letter urging him to leave "don't ask, don't tell" in place. "Our past experience as military leaders," they wrote, "leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness."

The NewsHour contacted a number of four-star officers requesting an interview for this story. However, none agreed to speak to us on camera. One general expressed surprise his name was even on the list, since he says he had never agreed to sign the letter, and at least three officers listed as signatories are dead.

MYTH: The public does not support repeal of DADT

  • In a February 2 Washington Times column, Frank Gaffney falsely asserted that Americans "overwhelmingly ... oppose conferring on homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and hermaphrodites a nonexistent 'right' to serve openly in the military."
  • In his February 8 editorial, Kristol wrote that repeal of DADT "isn't a change an appreciable number of Americans are clamoring for."

REALITY: Numerous polls find broad support for gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military

  • CNN/Opinion Research: 69 percent favor "permitting people who are openly gay or lesbian to serve in the military." A February CNN poll found that 69 percent of respondents favor "permitting people who are openly gay or lesbian to serve in the military," while 27 percent oppose it.
  • ABC/Washington Post: 75 percent support military service by "homosexuals who DO disclose their sexual orientation." A February ABC/Washington Post poll found that 75 percent of respondents support military service by "homosexuals who DO disclose their sexual orientation" compared to 24 percent who do not.
  • Quinnipiac: 57 percent support overturning DADT. A February Quinnipiac poll asked: "Federal law currently prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Do you think this law should be repealed or not?" Fifty-seven percent of respondents said "yes" while 36 percent said "no."
  • CBS/NY Times: 58 percent support allowing open "gay men and lesbians" to serve. A February CBS News/New York Times poll found that 58 percent favor allowing "gay men and lesbians" who "openly announce their sexual orientation" to serve in the military, while 28 percent oppose it. The same poll found that 44 percent favor allowing "homosexuals" who "openly announce their sexual orientation" to serve in the military, while 42 percent oppose it.
  • Fox News: 61 percent favor open service for "gays and lesbians." A February Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that 61 percent favor "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military" while 30 percent oppose it.
  • Gallup: 69 percent support "allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military." A May 2009 Gallup poll found that 69 percent approve "allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military."

MYTH: Right-wing attacks on DADT repeal are not anti-gay

  • On the January 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly stated of opposition to repeal of DADT: "It's not about anti-gay. It's about being comfortable in the barracks."

REALITY: Prominent right-wing figures opposing repeal have a history of anti-gay rhetoric. For example:

Wesley Pruden. In a February 5 Washington Times op-ed headlined "Nothing gay about this mission," Washington Times editor emeritus Pruden attacked repealing DADT by asserting that "there's really not very much gay about war" and that the military is "organized for a simple ultimate mission, to kill people and break things." He also stated that Mullen "wanted to talk mostly about how he's not like the homophobes," adding: "Navies once took small boys aboard ship as cabin boys to make life pleasant for the officers, and that seemed to work out all right. So what's the big deal?" Pruden's prior statements include that those who support allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military want to "make the barracks safe for sodomy," and that doing so would "render [the military] inoperable for the convenience of puffs and poofs."

Tony Perkins. In February 2 appearances on CNN Newsroom and CNN's Larry King Live, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins opposed the repeal of DADT and repeated the talking point that doing so would undermine unit cohesion. Perkins stated in October 2006 that neither Democrats nor Republicans appeared "likely to address the real issue" in the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley's (R-FL) interactions with congressional pages, "which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse." He added that "[i]gnoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership." More recently, he has used anti-gay rhetoric to attack Obama administration official Kevin Jennings.

Robert Maginnis. In his book, Unfriendly Fire: How The Gay Ban Undermines The Military And Weakens America, Frank writes that in the early 1990s, Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, now a Human Events columnist, wrote a "six-part profile of a typical homosexual" intended to bolster opponents of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve in the military titled "The Homosexual Subculture." According to Frank:

"The Homosexual Subculture" cast the gay community as permanent rebels who scoffed at authority and could never conform to society. Gays use their "raw political power" to make a string of demands including "laws to prohibit discrimination," pro-gay sex education, the "decriminalization of private sex acts between consenting 'persons,'" and acceptance of military service. This agenda, wrote Maginnis, amounted to a "homosexual assault." In his counterassault, he launched into a tirade about the homosexual's destructive sexual and health practices. His obsessive attention to detail makes Ken Starr's later report on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky look like Roman poetry. According to Maginnis, studies showed that gay people "typically live a dangerously promiscuous lifestyle": 43 percent had over five hundred sexual partners and 28 percent had over a thousand. "Some of their favorite places are 'gay' bars, 'gay' theaters and bathhouses." The quotations around "gay" seemed to imply that the whole torrid affair was anything but happy and festive.

[...]

Maginnis indicted the mental health of gays and lesbians. "Homosexuals are a very unstable group," he wrote, whose lifestyle "breeds enormous amounts of guilt" over their promiscuity, dishonesty, and failed relationships. "They are restless in their contacts, lonely, jealous, and neurotic depressive," concluded the amateur psychiatrist. "As a category of people, homosexuals have a greater indiscipline problem than heterosexuals," he stated, citing as evidence for this "indiscipline" - for reasons that are unclear - a greater likelihood of being murdered. [Page 38-39]

Peter Sprigg. Appearing on the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Sprigg claimed that "the presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion. That's exactly what Congress found in 1993. And that's what the law states." In a 2008 interview with Medill News Service, discussing a bill that would make it easier for gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their foreign partners' citizenship, Sprigg stated: "I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe that homosexuality is destructive to society." In a subsequent statement, Sprigg said he "used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God" and apologized "for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace."

Mychal Massie. In his February 9 WorldNetDaily column -- headlined "Is cross-dressing in fatigues next?" -- Mychal Massie, chairman of the "national leadership network of black conservatives" Project 21, wrote that "[o]penly homosexual personnel would have a pernicious effect resulting in the delegitimization of the finest military in the world," and stated that President Obama's call for repeal of DADT is "about forcing an Erebusic agenda and behavior into an environment that is morally and socially incompatible with it."

MYTH: DADT repeal would adversely affect retention

  • In his February 9 column, Massie claimed, "A reader who is in a position to know told me that the 'last survey among military folks [revealed] that 25 percent won't re-up if this happens. This means that to allow [the] 2 percent of those out there who choose this lifestyle into the military, we'd lose 25 percent of the experienced military folks who have morals.'"

REALITY: Claim defies experiences of several other countries that have allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly. In his 2003 Parameters article, Belkin wrote that CSSMM's study (now the Palm Center) found that "[n]ot a single one of the 104 experts interviewed believed that the Australian, Canadian, Israeli, or British decisions to lift their gay bans ... led to increased difficulties in recruiting or retention."

Polls of Canada, UK predicting refusal to "work with gays" and mass resignations were not borne out by reality. In his 2003 article, Belkin wrote:

In a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers, the Canadian Department of National Defence found that 62 percent of male service members would refuse to share showers, undress, or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier, and that 45 percent would refuse to work with gays. A 1996 survey of 13,500 British service members reported that more than two-thirds of male respondents would not willingly serve in the military if gays and lesbians were allowed to serve. Yet when Canada and Britain subsequently lifted their gay bans, these dire predictions were not confirmed.

Australian Defence Ministry: "The recruitment figures didn't alter" after gay ban was lifted. In his 2003 article, Belkin wrote:

In Australia, Commodore R. W. Gates, whose rank is equivalent to a one-star admiral, remarked that the lifting of the ban was "an absolute non-event." Professor Hugh Smith, a leading academic expert on homosexuality in the Australian military, observed that when the government ordered the military to lift the ban, some officers said, "Over my dead body; if this happens I'll resign." However, Smith said that there were no such departures and that the change was accepted in "true military tradition." Bronwen Grey, an official in the Australian Defence Ministry, reported, "There was no increase in complaints about gay people or by gay people. There was no known increase in fights, on a ship, or in Army units. ... The recruitment figures didn't alter."

MYTH: Experience of other nations aren't relevant because "nobody counts on" their armies

  • In a 2000 Washington Times column responding to the United Kingdom's decision to lift its ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military, Wesley Pruden wrote: "What most of us are too diplomatic, too polite, just too darn nice to say, is that except for the English it probably doesn't matter very much. From the record in World War II, the last real test of military prowess for the Europeans, we can reasonably conclude that European women may be better fighters than European men, anyway. A little gay spooning after 'lights out' isn't likely to hurt troops nobody counts on."

REALITY: Several nations have fought in wars after allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly. Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Canada -- all of which allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly -- all have more than 1,000 servicemembers deployed in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom and Canada have each suffered more than 100 casualties since the war began. Australia and the United Kingdom both participated in the invasion of Iraq; Australia sent 2,000 troops while the UK originally contributed 46,000. Israel has also engaged in numerous military conflicts since its 1993 removal of all restrictions on gay men and lesbians serving openly.

Countries that allow open service took the lead in some Afghan offensives. In Unfriendly Fire, Frank writes:

[In 2006] a NATO International Security Assistance Force, consisting of troops from nearly forty countries, took over operations in some of the most dangerous regions of southern Afghanistan, with Britain, Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands doing the heavy lifting. That fall, Canadian forces led American, British, Dutch, and Danish troops in a bloody battle in which five hundred suspected Taliban fighters were surrounded and killed. The defeat prompted complaints by the Taliban that so many of its forces had been wiped out that it was having trouble finding sufficient leadership.

The Canadian "experiment" with open gays was now fourteen years old, its start a distant memory for most. But the proof was in the pudding. Canada, Australia, even the Netherlands, were hardly "irrelevant." Their combat-tested fighting forces, replete with gays and lesbians serving openly, were critical partners in the American national defense strategy, and the United States was all too happy to enlist their indispensable firepower in the wars in the Middle East. [Page 158]

U.S. military has previously "incorporat[ed] the lessons learned" from foreign militaries. Contrary to the suggestion that the experience of foreign militaries is irrelevant in considering U.S. policy, in its 2010 report, the Palm Center found:

We consider several specific studies that reflect a wide variety of issue areas, historical periods, and national cultures. All of them show that the U.S. military itself repeatedly has commissioned research that invites such comparisons, at times incorporating the lessons learned from these other militaries. While there is no doubt that the U.S. military is different from other militaries, such distinctions have not prevented the U.S. military from comparing itself to and learning from foreign armed forces.

Opponents of open service previously cited UK's since-repealed gay ban to support their position. In its 2010 report, the Palm Center noted that during the debate over whether gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military in the early 1990s, some opponents of open service cited the United Kingdom's ban on open service -- which has since been repealed -- to support their position:

In making her case for banning gays from the U.S. military, Major Melissa Wells-Petry, who consulted the 1993 Military Working Group that wrote the blueprint for the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ... cited the British ban on gay service personnel, which was in effect when she was writing, as part of her case for banning gays in the U.S. military, using their rationale that, because gays are likely to be targeted for blackmail, they are unsuitable to serve in the U.S. military.

[...]

Col. Ronald Ray of the U.S. Marine Corps relied on similar logic when he argued for maintaining the ban, and referred to the British ban on homosexual service members to support his argument. He cited a British military expert who argued that "homosexuality in [a British army] regiment would be 'devastating to unit cohesion.'"

MYTH: Only progressives support the repeal of DADT

  • In his February 8 editorial, Kristol characterized Obama's call for the repeal of DADT as "contemporary liberalism in a nutshell" because Obama's argument supposedly does not "consider costs as well as benefits."

REALITY: Polls show support for repeal of DADT among many Republicans, conservatives. According to the February ABC News/Washington Post poll, 61 percent of conservatives and 64 percent of Republicans support allowing "homosexuals who DO disclose their sexual orientation" to serve. The February Quinnipiac poll found that 40 percent of Republicans support the repeal of DADT. The May 2009 Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of conservatives, and 60 percent of weekly churchgoers favor "allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military."

Several prominent Bush administration defense officials have called for repeal. As noted above, Dick Cheney; Robert Gates, who has said he "consider[s] himself a Republican" and was first appointed Defense Secretary by President Bush; Mike Mullen, who was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Bush; and Colin Powell, Bush's first Secretary of State, have all called for repeal of DADT.

MYTH: DADT repeal would expose servicemembers to greater HIV risk

  • On his January 7, 2009, broadcast, Colorado Newsradio 850 KOA's "Gunny" Bob Newman asserted that allowing gays to serve openly in the U.S. military would increase the risk that members of the armed forces contract the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), develop AIDS, and then die "because [they] happened to get a transfusion from ... say, an openly gay person with a very active sexual, open lifestyle."

REALITY: Military regulations and procedures already exist to prevent spread of HIV. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, "Since October 1985, the U.S. Department of Defense has routinely tested civilian applicants for military service for serologic evidence of infection with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)." Further, U.S. military regulations require continued testing of all active-duty personnel every two years and provide procedures for preventing those who have tested HIV-positive from serving overseas or serving as blood donors.

Study: Allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in other countries did not increase HIV infection rate. In his 2003 Parameters article, Belkin wrote of CSSMM's study (now the Palm Center), "Not a single one of the 104 experts interviewed believed that the Australian, Canadian, Israeli, or British decisions to lift their gay bans ... increased the rate of HIV infection among the troops."

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