One of the main objectives of the Pentagon group studying the implications of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy is to survey troops and their families and report on how servicemembers would respond to serving alongside openly gay troops and how gay and lesbian members feel about lifting the ban. Since the study began, the Pentagon has expressed concern over how to go about surveying gay troops without unintentionally outing them or allowing some members to use the benefit of anonymity to shower the comments with homophobic remarks. The Defense Department has hired a contractor, Westat to confidentially gather the views of troops and their families. “The company will use that data to assess the possible impact of a change in policy on military effectiveness and identify possible changes needed in military recruiting, housing, spousal benefits, and other areas.”
While the military attempts to elicit the opinions of gay soldiers, my colleagues at the Center for American Progress have produced a video of former gay members who chose not to re-enlist in the service because of the DADT policy:
- VETERAN: “At the end of five and a half years of service I decided to get out because I couldn’t lie about who I was anymore.”
- VETERAN: “I choose not to re-enlist. When I came back from Iraq and I looked out of the aircraft and there were always these flags and welcome home signs and I realized my partner couldn’t be there on the tarmac, that was like a slap in the face.”
- VETERAN: “The law basically allows for a lot of disruption in the unit. This law is completely illogical. It doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s a failed, failed law.”
Approximately 14,000 servicemembers have been discharged under the 17-year old policy and the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars replacing discharged members. It’s estimated that there are at least 65,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers on active military duty today and another 1 million gay and lesbian veterans.