Diverse US support for openly gay army members

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Americans of all ages and numerous religions support the idea of openly gay army recruits, according to a poll.

The survey, released by the Pew Research Centre, shows that a majority of Americans in every age group, geographic region of the country and throughout numerous religious denominations support allowing lesbian and gay Americans to serve openly in the armed forces.

Results suggest a “two-to-one” support in the United States for ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel. A majority of moderate Republicans (62%), liberal Democrats (85%), Catholics (67%), Protestants (53%), Americans living in the Northeast (66%) and those living in the South (58%) all support allowing gays to serve openly.

The figures, Pew reports, “represent significantly broader support for [lifting the ban] than in 1994,” when the military’s current law was first implemented.

“The American people could not be clearer about their opposition to the continued exclusion of lesbian and gay Americans from our armed forces,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN).

“Support for repealing the military’s ban has grown by fifteen percent in the South, eight percent among moderate Republicans and nine percent among Catholics. In virtually every community, constituents are sending a clear message to their elected leaders that the time has come to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Our nation supports treating everyone who sacrifices for our national defense, whether gay or straight, with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The survey follows similar findings from other organisations. A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 79% of Americans favour allowing gays to serve openly. The Boston Globe reported in May 2005 that clear majorities of regular church-goers and self-identified conservatives favour open service. Sixty-four percent of respondents in a FOX News sampling also indicated support for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), a Congressional proposal to allow gays to serve openly, was introduced in March 2005 by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA). The bill is currently supported by a bipartisan coalition of 110 Members of Congress. “Today’s Pew poll shows that Congressional legislation to repeal the military’s ban enjoys unparalleled support,” said Mr Osburn. “Congressional leaders should heed their constituents and lift the ban.”

Results for the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 1,405 adults, 18 years of age or older, from March 8-12, 2006.

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