Against the Gay Ban

The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2003 | Go to article overview
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Against the Gay Ban


"Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military. Necessity?" by Aaron Belkin, in Parameters (Summer 2003), U.S. Army War College, 122 Forbes Ave., Carlisle, Pa. 17013-5238.

Under the compromise "don't ask, don't tell" policy adopted a decade ago, U.S. military service is still off limits to known homosexuals. But four other nations have lifted their gay bans in recent years with no apparent impairment of military effectiveness. The United States should follow their example, suggests Belkin, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and director of its Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.

Australia and Canada in 1992, Israel in 1993, and Britain in 2000 eliminated their proscriptions, despite opposition from their armed forces and, in some cases, dire predictions about what would happen. Federal courts forced Canada's band, and the European Court of Human Rights, compelled Britain to act.

Researchers at Belkin's center interviewed "every identifiable pro-gay and anti-gay expert on the policy change in each country including officers and enlisted personnel, ministry representatives, academics, veterans, politicians, and nongovernmental observers," and also examined hundreds of documents and articles. They found that lifting the bans had little or no impact on the military services--"an absolute nonevent," in the words of an Australian commodore. None of the 104 persons interviewed maintained that removal of the restrictions "undermined military performance, readiness, or cohesion, led to increased difficulties in recruiting or retention, or increased the rate of HIV infection among the troops," says Belkin.

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