Why Gay Troops Should Fill Out The Pentagon’s DADT Survey

Yesterday, the Pentagon emailed 400,000 surveys to American troops seeking their views on the impact of repealing DADT, but some advocacy organizations are already warning gay and lesbian members against filling out the questionnaire. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has issued the following release:

A number of service members have contacted SLDN to seek guidance on surveys concerning the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the discriminatory law barring gay and lesbian service members from serving with integrity. At this time SLDN cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members participate in any survey being administered by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon Working Group, or any third-party contractors. While the surveys are apparently designed to protect the individual’s privacy, there is no guarantee of privacy and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself. If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation.

According to the American Forces Press Service, “troops can log into http://www.defense.gov/dadt with their common access card to provide their input. This site is not confidential; however, directions from the site, as well as in the survey, are provided for members who wish to continue a ‘confidential dialogue’ with non-Defense Department members of the working group…[o]nce servicemembers enter the confidential site, they will be given an untraceable PIN number they then can use to log on from any computer.”

In May, Joe Mirabella from the Bilerico Project pointed out that the entire idea of surveying troops anonymously (or not completely anonymously) could “invite the worst kind of hate, anonymous homophobia.” “I’ve had the opportunity to write for a variety of sources. When I write for sites with a broad audience, anonymous comments can be downright hateful. On one blog I write for, I have a pack of 5 or 6 potential people…who takes every opportunity they can to fill my comment space with anti-gay hate.” Something very similar could happen with this survey, particularly if gay and lesbian troops decide not to participate in it. But deliberately silencing LGB troops could very well distort the entire study and provide ammunition for those who seek to maintain the policy.