Blog of Rights

Gay? Fine by Me…Say Service Members

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:40pm

According to findings first reported by NBC News late last week, a majority of active-duty and reserve service members, both men and women, have no objection to serving and living alongside gay and lesbian troops. The findings, which come from surveys sent to 400,000 service members earlier this year, are expected to be included in a Pentagon working group report on how to move forward effectively with implementation of open service for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual. That report is due to be released on December 1.

Richard Engel of NBC News called the results “significant.” Indeed, the numbers are a very positive indication that the discriminatory and unconstitutional “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is soon to become an ugly relic of the past.

These latest findings, no doubt to the dismay of all those Chicken Little wannabes attempting to stoke fears about readiness and unit cohesion, are very much in keeping with the evolving views of both the military and the American public on open and honest service. According to a 2006 Zogby poll, 73 percent of military personnel reported that they were comfortable with gays and lesbians. Another study found that one in four troops who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq personally knows a member of his or her unit who is gay. Additionally, more than 100 retired admirals and generals have formally voiced their support for repealing DADT.

Meanwhile, public support for open service by gay and lesbian troops has grown by a remarkable 31 percentage points since the policy was first introduced nearly two decades ago. A February 2010 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 75 percent of Americans believe those who are openly gay and lesbian should be able to serve in the U.S. military. Particularly at this time of grinding political polarization, these high numbers would be hard to find for almost anything.

President Obama and his Justice Department have the power to end this senseless, destructive policy right now by refraining from appealing the recent judicial order, in a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, which struck down DADT as an unconstitutional violation of the rights of gay and lesbian troops. Please join with the ACLU in telling President Obama it is time to end DADT. Also, be sure to check back to aclu.org for updates on the lawsuit, as a federal appeals court in California may rule as early as this week on whether the military can continue to enforce DADT while the legal challenge to the district court ruling proceeds.

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