One Year After DADT Repeal, Impact Reports Emerge and Opponents Fight On

One year after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, an academic study indicates that allowing openly queer soldiers was a “non-event” in terms of negative impacts — but opponents within and outside the military keep up their fight against the repeal’s principles.

The Palm Center, a research group at the University of California Santa Barbara, collaborated with professors from the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Marine Corps War College to consider the impacts of DADT repeal upon several different factors of military life. Their report “One Year Out,” issued today, indicates that the new policy of open service has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale. In fact, the impact was so negligible that the Palm Center described DADT’s repeal as a “non-event” in terms of negative impacts.

The study’s executive summary explains the researchers’ methodology, which was tailored towards addressing the concerns of DADT repeal opponents:

We sought to maximize the likelihood of identifying evidence of damage caused by repeal by pursuing ten separate research strategies, each of which was designed to uncover data indicating that repeal has undermined the military. Our research strategies included outreach to 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, to all major
activists and expert opponents of DADT repeal and to 18 watchdog organizations, including opponents and advocates of repeal, who are known for their ability to monitor Pentagon operations. In addition, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 scholars and practitioners and 62 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch, as well as on-site field observations of four military units. We analyzed relevant media articles published during the research period, administered two surveys and conducted secondary source analysis of surveys independently administered by outside organizations. Our vigorous effort to collect data from opponents of DADT repeal, including anti-repeal generals and admirals, activists, academic experts, service members and watchdog organizations, should sustain confidence in the validity and impartiality of our findings.

However, some opponents have emerged with new concerns since DADT’s repeal one year ago. Chaplain (Colonel Retired) Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, issued a report contrary to the Palm Center’s findings, citing that DADT’s repeal immediately created major problems for service members. The Christian Post reports on a few of the incidents noted by chaplains, some of which border on the salacious:

– Senior military officials have allowed personnel in favor of repeal to speak to media while those who have concerns have been ordered to be silent.
– Two Airmen were publicly harassed in a Post Exchange food court as they were privately discussing their concerns about the impact of repeal.
– A chaplain was encouraged by military officials to resign his commission unless he could “get in line with the new policy,” demonstrating no tolerance for that chaplain’s religious viewpoint.
– At an officer training service school, a male service member sexually harassed another male service member through text messages, emails, phone calls and in-person confrontations. The harassing male insisted the two would “make a great couple.” The harassed serviceman reported the harassment, but the command failed to take disciplinary action…
– Service members engaged in homosexual behavior protested an Army school’s open doors policy for all students that prohibited the closing of room doors for sexual purposes. The protesters were upset because they claimed that they had a right to participate in sexual behavior with their same-sex roommates.
– A senior chaplain was stripped of his authority over the chapel under his charge because, in accordance with federal law, he proclaimed the chapel as a “sacred space” where marriage or marriage-like ceremonies would only be between one man and one woman…
– The Navy has allowed sailors openly engaged in homosexual behavior to choose their bunkmates.

“This list of problems and incidents that have arisen mere months after this administration imposed its will on the armed forces is disturbing to say the least, and we know it is only the beginning,” Crews told the Christian Post. “Compounding the outrage, service members are not free to speak out about these matters. This ensures that distrust in the ranks will increase and morale will decrease as the number of silenced victims grows.”

Opponents on Capitol Hill have also kept up their fight. During consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, Representatives Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) added two provisions that would undermine DADT repeal and open service. The ACLU reports on the amendments and their possible impacts:

The Akin Amendment in the House-passed NDAA could function as a dangerous license to use religion as a cover for discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, by stating that the beliefs of members of the Armed Forces “concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality” must be accommodated and shall not be the “basis for any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.” This language – a solution in search of a problem – could encourage the creation of personal, social and institutional barriers which would make the military a hostile environment for the very people who only recently won a measure of equality under the law. It would also make it very difficult for commanders to remove such barriers when they do arise. The White House described this provision as “potentially harmful to good order and discipline.”

The Palazzo Amendment would prohibit Defense Department facilities from being used for private marriage or “marriage-like” ceremonies for same-sex couples, even where state law permits such marriages. This provision ignores the fact that these facilities are already available for use by service members for a wide range of religious functions and ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations and other events. To deny them to gay and lesbian service members – even in those states where same-sex couples enjoy the freedom to marry – based on nothing more than the sexual orientation of those wishing to make use of the facilities is discriminatory. The White House described this provision as a “troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.”

Regardless of the opponents’ arguments, the effects of DADT’s repeal may have served as both a litmus test and a spark for the larger culture’s shifting regard for queer rights. Patrick Murphy of The Daily Beast asserts that the repeal of DADT was a watershed moment that must continue to catalyze activists as we progress into election season:

[The repeal of DADT] has fundamentally changed the political landscape as it relates to LGBT rights. Openly gay candidates like Sean Patrick Maloney, who is running for Congress in New York are changing the conversation. Sean and his husband have been together for 20 years and they have three wonderful children. His family is central to his campaign. Not just to promote LGBT equality—which he does—but to connect with average voters concerned about education and the economy.

Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, marriage equality was included in the Democratic Party platform—the first time this has ever happened. Since DADT was repealed, four states have passed legislation supporting gay marriage.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically in our favor. National polls indicate that a majority of Americans support marriage equality—54 percent, according to a June 2012 CNN poll…

The timing here is very important as we head into election season. That’s because elections have consequences. It was the 2008 election that led to the repeal of DADT. And the next 48 days will determine whether we continue to make progress for equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation, or if we let the momentum of the DADT repeal slip away.

While we can smile and take pleasure in celebrating today, we have a long road ahead of us to do everything we can to fight and to make our country a more perfect union. On November 6th, our nation will decide what path we take—a path that leads us backward to a less just past, or the challenging but necessary path forward toward a more perfect union for our country’s future.