UK’s People Management is reporting that the British army is advising the Pentagon’s Working Group on how best to eliminate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — part of that group’s ongoing effort to review the experiences of open service in foreign militaries:
Colonel Mark Abraham told PM that fears surrounding the removal of the exclusion policy had been unfounded, and the overnight lifting of the ban in January 2000 had resulted in “no notable change at all”. [...]
“We knew a lot of gay and lesbian people were serving quite successfully, and it was clear that sexual orientation wasn’t an indication of how good a soldier or officer you could be.”
He continued: “The reality was that those serving in the army were the same people the day after we lifted the ban, so there was no notable change at all. Everybody carried on with their duties and had the same working relationships as they previously had while the ban was in place.”
The UK dropped its restrictions after it lost a legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights in 1999, and the new policy became effective in January 2000. “Thirty months after the United Kingdom changed its policy to permit open service, the Ministry of Defense concluded in a tri-service review of its army, air force, and navy that the change had been accomplished smoothly. The Royal Air Force reported that ‘the overwhelming view of RAF COs [commanding officers] is that the change in policy was overdue and represented recognition of the diverse culture in which we all live. All COs agreed that there had been no tangible impact on operational effectiveness, team cohesion, or Service life generally.’
For a sample of what the Brits may be recommending to the study group, click over to this report by CAP’s Lawrence Korb on how our allies implemented their open policies:
- CONDUCT: The British created a new Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct that applied equally to heterosexuals and homosexuals. The Code provides equal protection for all service members by focusing on an individual’s behavior rather than the individual’s specific characteristics. It steers clear of the potentially rancorous process of establishing explicit, separate regulations on conduct for gay and straight soldiers.
- DISCIPLINE: The United Kingdom provides opportunities for service members to seek redress if they believe that they have been treated unfairly by other members of the armed forces. These protections do not specify or depend on the sexual orientation of the involved parties.
- CO-HABITATION: Concerns about co-habitation turned out to be much ado about nothing and abruptly disappeared once openly gay men and women were integrated into the military and began living and sleeping in the same quarters as straight service members.
- REINSTATEMENT: After the United Kingdom removed its ban on open service, the armed forces offered former service members who had been discharged under the policy the opportunity to rejoin the force. Only a small minority re-joined.