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DADT: Researchers Have Been There All Along

As the U.S. military today begins allowing gay service members to no longer hide their sexuality, we look at the various academic and empirical studies that surround the issue.
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Today, the United States military ended its policy of allowing gay troops to serve as long as they didn't publicly identify themselves as gay. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, enacted 18 years ago during the Clinton administration, was a bridge from the days when being homosexual was an automatic ticket to a dishonorable discharge, to today, where gay soldiers, sailors and airmen can serve openly.

Over the years, Miller-McCune has examined the process that led to the repeal of DADT, starting with a 2009 piece that examined the general acceptance — based on polling of both the public and the uniformed services — toward allowing gays to serve openly.

The article noted that opponents of the repeal argued that "unit cohesion" — a vital attribute in combat and for peacetime morale — would suffer. Proponents, including The Palm Center, a pro-repeal think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, pointed to Australia, Canada, Israel and Britain as countries that allowed gays to serve openly without a loss in fighting ability. In fact, a new study of civilian workplaces suggests that the tension surrounding not knowing a co-worker's sexuality can diminish performance for everybody, suggesting that military may be even better for having ended DADT.

The wealth of information on gays serving — going back to a 1993 RAND study and even earlier — made the slow-motion advance on repeal a bit suspect, Idea Lobby blogger Emily Badger suggested in February of last year. Citing those studies, Clinton Anderson, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office with the American Psychological Association, told Badger, "The evidence from our perspective is clear: It's a bad policy, it should be repealed, and we don't see any justification for delaying it."

But then what sociologists and psychologists know based on studies may not alleviate the concerns of the troops or their commanders. So, Badger looked at a survey of the forces conducted by the Pentagon, and later at the operational questions the various services might need addressed in integrating this newly unveiled subset of it own.

"If you look at actually most of the specific policy areas where questions are arising in the transition, the guiding rule is 'no change,'" Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, told Badger. "What are they telling chaplains? No change. Marriage benefits? No change. Housing, for the most part, absent some emergencies? No change. Collection of data on gays? No change.

"The big change is just that they're going to stop firing gays for uttering the words 'I am gay.'"

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