A shift in military support for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy aimed to keep homosexuals “in the closet”

Attitudes of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans toward gay and lesbian service members

From Armed Forces & Society

The U.S. Department of Defense has long held that, as a general rule, homosexuality is incompatible with military service because it interferes with the factors critical to combat effectiveness and is a perceived risk to national security. A ban on openly gay and lesbian members continues. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy aims to keep lesbian and gay service members firmly “in the closet”. This article considers how important this policy is now as a shift in attitude can be observed. The research examines data from a 2006 survey of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans showing declining support for the policy: from about 75 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in this survey. The strongest argument against the ban is that sexual orientation is unrelated to job performance. Is this the right time to review the policy? The study represents a step in addressing the rationale underlying DADT. The results can inform military policy and practice.

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Abstract

U.S. policy banning openly gay and lesbian personnel from serving in its military rests on the belief that heterosexual discomfort with lesbian and gay service members in an integrated environment would degrade unit cohesion and readiness. To inform this policy, data from a 2006 survey of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are analyzed in this study. Views of these war veterans are consistent with prior surveys of military personnel showing declining support for the policy: from about 75 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in this survey. Among the demographic and military experience variables analyzed, comfort level with lesbian and gay people was the strongest correlate of attitudes toward the ban. War veterans indicated that the strongest argument against the ban is that sexual orientation is unrelated to job performance and that the strongest argument in favor of the ban is a projected negative impact on unit cohesion. However, analyses of these war veterans’ ratings of unit cohesion and readiness revealed that knowing a gay or lesbian unit member is not uniquely associated with cohesion or readiness; instead, the quality of leaders, the quality of equipment, and the quality of training are the critical factors associated with unit cohesion and readiness.

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Article details:
Moradi, B., & Miller, L. (2009). Attitudes of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans toward Gay and Lesbian Service Members Armed Forces & Society, 36 (3), 397-419 DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09352960

     
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