Poll questions US Army’s approach to gays

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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has questioned the results of a new poll exploring the impact of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ban on the decision of potential recruits to enlist.

Similar polls conducted in Canada and Britain prior to the repeal of gay bans in those nations predicted dire consequences if gays were allowed to serve openly, yet those predictions never materialized after the fact, the group said this week.

The poll, from a research institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, reports that 21% of potential recruits – among a young, male and conservative sampling – would be “less likely” to join the armed forces if the military’s ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel were repealed. Two percent of respondents said they were “more likely” to join while the vast majority – 77% – said allowing gays to serve openly would have no impact on their decision to enlist.

“From predictions of disruption to morale and cohesion to warnings about decimated recruiting efforts, the dire prophecies associated with allowing gays to serve in the world’s armed forces have never materialized,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for SLDN. “Instead, recent studies have indicated the U.S. military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits by repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ During the past decade, our armed forces have fired nearly 800 gay and lesbian specialists with skills deemed critical by the Department of Defense. It is the exclusion of qualified talent, and not the presence of lesbian and gay patriots, that poses the greater threat to our national security.”

Similar polls conducted in both Canada and Britain before those nations’ bans were lifted predicted similar results which never panned out following actual repeal. In Canada, 62% of respondents said they would refuse to share showers or living quarters with a gay soldier. Following repeal, however, a study found no impact on recruiting, discipline or performance as a result of allowing gays to serve openly. Similarly, well over half of those surveyed for a British study were originally opposed to serving with open gays and lesbians, while no actual impact on recruiting was found following repeal of that country’s ban.

Among respondents to the poll, 53.1% were Republicans and 29.8% were independents; 81.6% were male and all were between the ages of 18 and 24. “Even among the most conservative of samplings,” said Greer, “the overwhelming majority of respondents, a full 77%, said allowing gays to serve would have no impact on their decision to enlist. Military readiness crosses all political lines. Dedication to country is not determined by sexual orientation.”

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