Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy going into effect. The policy, put into place in 1993 by then President Bill Clinton, made gay and bisexual servicemen and women hide their sexual identities.
Military leaders and lawmakers said openly gay members of the military could potentially damage unit cohesion, putting the lives of American men and women even more at risk in combat zones. These also felt those open about their sexuality would lead to a decrease in recruitment and retention because of troops’ concerns over the possible uncomfortable actions of their fellow soldiers.
According to a new study by Palm Center, which researches sexual minorities in the military, those fears were largely unwarranted.Six months after the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, nine researchers began studying the effects of the change. They spoke with those for and against the repeal, as well as gay active-duty service members. Also included were on-site field observations of military units and feedback from generals and admirals who signed a letter in 2009 saying openly gay servicemen and women would undermine the military.
The scholars determined the repeal of DADT had little or no negative impact on the military’s ability to fight effectively. It alsodid little to reduce enlistment or re-enlistment figures. There have been a few documented instances of resignations by military chaplains or a recorded drop in morale among some who opposed the repeal. But these cases are minor compared to the ability of gay soldiers to be open and more comfortable about their identities while serving.
Their report said, in part: “Although we identified a few downsides that followed from the policy change, we identified upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh benefit. If anything, the DADT repeal appears to have enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission.”The transition away from the DADT policy has been smoother because of the concerted efforts of many in the military to enforce ethical and moral standards of their forces. Leaders have shown a tangible resolve to allow all who wish to serve to do so with pride and integrity.
We can hope that in the years to come, the military and our nation will move past the sexual orientation of our servicemen and women, putting their focus on enlisting the best and brightest our nation has to offer.
We can also look at those gay servicemen and women dedicating their lives to serving our country and hope they will inspire others to feel comfortable and accepted in a more tolerant society.