Surveys Support Openly Gay in the Military

By Dart, John | The Christian Century, December 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

Surveys Support Openly Gay in the Military


Dart, John, The Christian Century


The long-awaited Pentagon survey of military personnel found that the majority sees little negative impact if and when gays are allowed to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

The possible repeal of a 17-year policy of "don't ask/don't tell" was uncertain because of strong Republican resistance in Congress to a change; also, a federal court order to repeal the ban immediately is currently under appeal in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

At least the survey figures are in: the Pentagon canvass of 400,000 members of the military found 46.1 percent said that troop readiness would not be affected, and an additional 6.8 percent said the repeal would be a positive step. Another 25 percent predicted mixed results.

Upon releasing the study November 30 in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke in favor of lifting the policy, although Gates said the military would need time to educate its personnel, especially combat units.

The study noted that at least 40 percent of combat troops raised concerns, with 43 percent of marine combat troops--the smallest and most conservative of the services--saying they foresaw negative effects.

Most of the worries expressed by troops were exaggerated or were based on negative stereotypes of homosexuals, the study found. Most of those who had direct associations with a service member believed to be gay or lesbian reported few difficulties, according to the coauthors of the study, Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and army general Carter Ham.

However, if the policy is repealed, the study said, special attention should be paid to the 3,000-member chaplain corps, which has "some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views" on the issue.

According to the report, some chaplains said "we are all sinners" and chaplains should care for everyone, while other chaplains condemned homosexual behavior as a sin, leading them to withhold support for open homosexuals. The Pentagon study averred that chaplains' First Amendment rights would be protected if the ban is repealed.

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