Nel's New Day

September 13, 2012

DADT Disappeared on September 20, 2011

It is with great regret that I report that I’ll not be writing the blog for the next two weeks. My vacation takes me away from email, and I plan to figure out a life without sitting at the computer. Because I won’t be here on September 20, I want to post a blog about the anniversary on the day that is great news.

One year ago, on September 20, lesbians and gays in the military could, for the first time, be open about their gender identity. They didn’t gain total rights: partners still don’t have the rights that others have, and transpeople have no rights. But it’s a start.

It didn’t happen without certain histrionics. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), warned of dire events if “don’t ask, don’t tell” were repealed and lesbian and gay soldiers were allowed to serve openly. Weakened recruiting, poor morale, a breakdown in unit cohesion, an inevitable lack of readiness during a time of war, gays showering with straights—these were just a few of the predicted horrors.

All the nay-sayers are wrong.

The first academic study of the repeal shows absolutely no negative consequences. The study, published by Palm Center (a research branch of the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School), found no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.

The authors of the study included professors at U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Marine Corps War College. They solicited information from 553 generals and admirals who had previously predicted that repeal would undermine the military; expert opponents of DADT repeal; several watchdog organizations; and over 60 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from all service branches.

One soldier told the authors that he continued to hear derogatory anti-gay language from some in his unit during the first few months of DADT’s repeal. “Yet when he confronted them and spoke about their behavior in terms of leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved,” the study said.

“They don’t agree, but they were willing to be professional about it,” the soldier told the interviewers. He added that “frank discussions, which are now far less risky because of repeal, helped disabuse them of preconceived notions about gay people and that ultimately, problems were ‘completely resolved’ through discussion of the fact that he was respected before he was out, and that nothing had changed by his acknowledgement of his sexual orientation.”

These are some of the main points of the study:

(1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal;

(2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study’s co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal;

(3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal;

(4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal;

(5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.

It’s time to publicly ask those who fought against the repeal of DADT why their predictions were so wrong—especially McCain. Or Mitt Romney because the GOP platform decries “social experimentation” in the military and condemns efforts to “undermine military priorities and mission readiness,” which sounds like a position in support of the old policy.

In celebration of this day, I will bring you my favorite photo about the repeal. I’ll be back in two weeks!


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