Survey counters backing of gays in military

GOP pollster targets voters

**FILE** In this March 26, 2007 photo, Andrew Chapin of New York City takes part in a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington supporting legislative efforts to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gay soldiers. (Associated Press)**FILE** In this March 26, 2007 photo, Andrew Chapin of New York City takes part in a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington supporting legislative efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gay soldiers. (Associated Press)
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A group opposed to ending the ban on openly gay troops in the military has released a national survey that challenges earlier independent polls asserting that a wide percentage of Americans favor repealing the ban.

The Military Culture Coalition hopes the survey by a Republican pollster will help persuade moderate to conservative Democrats to oppose President Obama’s campaign promise to lift the ban as final votes in Congress loom.

The question is, is the poll too late? The House as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee have passed repeal legislation. That leaves the full Senate vote, a House-Senate conference bill, and then Mr. Obama’s signature to end the 1993 law that states that open homosexuality is a threat to combat readiness.

The policy under which open gays can be expelled is known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, who favors keeping the law, blocked the 2011 defense budget bill — which included a provision repealing the ban — during a lively floor debate with committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat. Mr. McCain’s maneuver means that, under Senate rules, Mr. Levin will need to garner 60 votes just to begin debate when the congressional summer recess ends next month.

“There will not be unanimous consent to bring it to the floor. They’ve already tried, and it will require cloture to proceed in its current form,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

A May Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans “continue to favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military.”

The Military Culture Coalition, which includes such socially conservative groups as the Family Research Council and the Center for Military Readiness, took a different approach.

Its poll by the Polling Co., headed by Kellyanne Conway, was limited to people likely to vote in the November elections. Independent polls point to Republicans picking up House and Senate seats. The poll also sought opinions on how the military should treat personnel who oppose homosexuality.

The bottom line: 48 percent of respondents favor keeping the ban; 45 percent want it repealed.

Fifty-two percent agreed with the statement that “even if the current law is overturned, the military should not attempt to change personal attitudes and feelings toward human sexuality.”

Among Democrats, 50 percent said military people should be punished if they do not change their attitudes toward gays.

Among military respondents who are likely voters, 57 percent support the ban; 34 percent want it overturned.

“The Military Culture Coalition Survey could be decisive in the debate, which is still ahead,” said Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Livonia, Mich.-based Center for Military Readiness.

“Unlike previous polls, it asked questions about the actual law,” she said. “For example, the coalition survey found that 52 percent of likely voters opposed the imposition of career-ending penalties against military personnel and chaplains who do not support homosexuality. In addition, 55 percent of respondents opposed modified training and education programs to enforce acceptance of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in the military.”

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