Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants the repeal of DADT to be rushed through the lame duck session and not left for the new legislature, where Republicans will of course block repeal. Obviously, Secretary Gates feels this is an issue of national security and military readiness. He has been somewhat equivocal in the past; this is his strongest stance to date, and really quite extraordinary.
Some background: Of the 26 countries that participate militarily in NATO, 22 permit gay people to serve. Of the 5 permanent members of the UN , three (Britain, France, and Russia) permit gay people to serve openly and two (China and the United States) do not.
Here are the countries with whom the US shares the dubious distinction of still denying its gay citizens the right to openly serve in the military: Antigua, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Cuba, Cyprus, , Dominican, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Iran, Kiribati, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Saudi Arabia., Barbados,
Canada lifted its ban on gays in the military in in 1992, and thus has had a fully inclusive military for almost 20 years. An extensive study of Canada’s integrated military was done in 2000 by Aaron Belkin and Jason McNichol. Belkin is Director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara. McNichol is Doctoral Candidate in Sociology at the and Director of ELM Research Associates, a non-partisan research firm in Berkeley.
Key findings are as follows:
- Lifting of restrictions on gay and lesbian service in the has not led to any change in military performance, unit cohesion, or discipline.
- Self-identified gay, lesbian, and transsexual members of the Canadian Forces contacted for the study describe good working relationships with peers.
- The percent of military women who experienced sexual harassment dropped 46% after the ban was lifted. While there were several reasons why harassment declined, one factor was that after the ban was lifted women were free to report assaults without fear that they would be accused of being a lesbian.
- Before Canada lifted its gay ban, a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers found that 62% said that they would refuse to share showers, undress or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier. After the ban was lifted, follow-up studies found no increase in disciplinary, performance, recruitment, sexual misconduct, or resignation problems.
- None of the 905 assault cases in the Canadian Forces from November, 1992 (when the ban was lifted) until August, 1995 involved gay bashing or could be attributed to the sexual orientation of one of the parties.
- The American public is also in favor of lifting the ban. In the most recent Gallup survey of American attitudes toward gays in the military, published in September of this year, , every demographic broadly supports gays serving openly. Among 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds — who make up the vast majority of the military force — support for overturning the current policy is at 79 percent.
- And yet the ban remains… for no other reason than that a large segment of the Republican base remains solidly, viciously homophobic. How long will the opinions of this minority be allowed to damage the reputation of a great nation on the world stage?
- Probably for quite a while. At least two more years, it seems.