Do Tell!

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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 Security Council, 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, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Cuba, Cyprus, China, Dominican, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Iran, Kiribati, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, NigeriaNorth KoreaPakistanPapua New Guinea and Saudi Arabia.

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 University of California, Berkeley 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 Canadian Forces 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.
DADT needs to go. If the administration is smart, they’ll spend their last political captial on repealing it. It just might buy them some time.

About filistro

Filistro is a Canadian writer and prairie dog who maintains burrows on both sides of the 49th parallel. Like all prairie dogs, she is keenly interested in politics and language. (Prairie dogs have been known to build organized towns the size of Maryland, and are the only furry mammal with a documented language.)
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9 Responses to Do Tell!

  1. robert verdi says:

    Its not just about people being “Viciously Homophobic”. As someone who did serve its clear homosexuals can be as good or as bad soldiers as hetero-sexual and in the end the ban should be lifted. With that said details will have to be worked out but that is what we pay bureaucrats for.

  2. robert verdi says:

    Filistro,Sometimes you can make a case without the political attack. For example you could point out that Canada has suffered over 152 (3rd highest) casualties in Afghanistan and their military have fought like the devils when needed. All this from a military that has lifted its ban on openly gay soldiers.

  3. Bart DePalma says:

    Filistro:Excellent post. It is rare to see a fact based argument on DADT or nearly any other public issue on homosexuality. You convinced me.

  4. mclever says:

    I have not served in the military myself, but several in my family have. My father should read filistro’s argument, because maybe it would change his mind. But my father hasn’t been active in the military for years, so his projections of what it would be like for today’s young soldiers are likely skewed.Now, my brother who is a veteran of Iraq and currently a Reserve thinks they should get on with repealing DADT and just let gays serve openly. There are a couple of guys in his unit who are probably gay, and he thinks it’s unfair that they have to hide who they are from their buddies. He admits that there might be a few incidents early on after the repeal of people being stupid, but most soldiers will just get on with doing their jobs and protecting one another. If the higher-ups set the right tone, any nonsense will end quickly.When I asked him, I was somewhat surprised by his response, given our parents’ attitudes. He’s very pragmatic, as most soldiers need to be. Paraphrasing something he said: On the battlefield, ideology and politics no longer matter. What matters is who’s shooting at whom and doing your part to help your side.

  5. filistro says:

    robert, you’re a good man and a credit to your political party. I like you a lot. But I have to tell you… much of the Republican base IS “viciously homophobic.” A quick tour of right-wing sites on this topic is enough to turn your stomach. It really is. The hatefulness is just awful.If there were no vibe of vicious homophobia in this country, we wouldn’t be seeing gay teenage kids bullied to the point of suicide. Kid are like litmus strips… they pick up and reflect whatever is just beneath the polite surface of any society.And I think the reason for resisting repeal of DADT has little to do with military readiness. It is because, once you allow a group of citizens to die for their country, it’s really hard to deny them the right to live with the ones they love.Socially, integration within the military is always followed by broader societal acceptance ans inclusivenss.

  6. Mainer says:

    For DADT it is time to go. I don’t want to see my son deploy yet again and face a lack of interpreters because some freaking homohawk has taken it upon himself to drive out more of them because they are gay. Those of us who have served know we have served with gays and lesbians. As a former senior enlisted I knew my troops. I knew who was what as do most senior NCO’s. In over 30 years of service I never had a problem with a gay or lesbian sailor….not freaking one. But homohawks…….they were so busy being paranoid I and others had a difficult time getting decent work out of them. They never seemed to understand the concept of mission first, last and only. And let me add this, often the ones most anti gay were also the ones most anti women in general, anti Muslim, anti educated, and anti any form of change. I would in general have traded any raging bible thumping homophobic, Muslim phobic anti woman twit for any of the groups they were bent to drive away. Oh here is some thing interesting. While this is totaly anecdotal and I wish I had kept better records on it I seriously beleive I had more serious issues of hetrosexual harrassment from this same drive the gays and Muslims out group than I had from the general uniformed population. While I can’t prove it the appearance was that if some one does not respect one group they can tend to not respect any thing that is not them.Pretty damn sad when a Lady Gaga can get it and some of our leaders don’t. Talk about an inverse pecking order.

  7. Pingback: Who Cares if You Tell? « Young Real Politiks

  8. Ryan says:

    I love this article. It is a great way to look at the issue, by evaluating it from the perspective and experience of our neighbors to the North! I am looking forward to the Pentagon report on DADT to come out. It will be fascinating to see the Republican Party try to maneuver around cold, hard facts.

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