Front-line fighters wary of repealing ‘don’t ask’

Pentagon report finds ‘low’ effect

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“However, these findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive and potentially dangerous impact on the performance of those serving at the tip of the spear in America’s wars.”

Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, has stated that he opposes repeal at a time of two wars but will follow the law. His predecessor, Gen. James T. Conway, took the same position. None of the chiefs endorsed repeal during testimony before Congress last winter.

The working group report recommended no separate berthing or shower facilities for homosexuals and heterosexuals. Gay unions will not be recognized because federal law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Gen. Ham and Mr. Jeh wrote that they rejected service members concerns that open homosexuals would harass or try to seduce colleagues.

“Repeatedly, we heard service members express the view that ‘open’ homosexuality would lead to widespread and overt displays of effeminacy among men, homosexual promiscuity, harassment and unwelcome advances within units, invasions of personal privacy, and an overall erosion of standards of conduct, unit cohesion, and morality,” they wrote.

“Based on our review, however, we conclude that these concerns about gay and lesbian service members who are permitted to be ‘open’ about their sexual orientation are exaggerated, and not consistent with the reported experiences of many service members.”

The Ham-Johnson team found widespread opposition to repeal from military chaplains on moral and religious grounds. The report said existing regulations are adequate to protect their freedom of speech.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led the filibuster that blocked a vote on repeal. He has said he wants the Pentagon to conduct a specific study on the effects of open gays on combat units, as opposed to a study on how to implement repeal.

“Sen. McCain and his staff are currently in the process of carefully reviewing the Pentagon’s report regarding the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Law,” his spokeswoman said.

Other Republicans have joined him in opposing a vote now.

“Throughout this debate, the focus has been on what overturning current policy would mean for recruitment, retention and combat readiness,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee. “In going over the 100-plus-question survey, there are only a handful of questions pertaining to direct combat experience and, even then, the questions do little to provide any insight into how combat units might be impacted. That is a critical distinction that the report fails to identify.”

Social conservative groups also blasted the survey.

“Sadly, today’s report, and the 10 months of work by the Comprehensive Review Working Group, may be of little value to Congress, because they failed to address the central question - whether overturning the current law would enhance our nation’s ability to fight and win wars,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “By beginning with the premise that the law would be overturned, and exploring only how to implement such a change, the conclusion that such a change would be feasible was foreordained.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has led the charge in Washington to abolish the law, applauded the Pentagon report and sent a warning to the four service chiefs.

“This exhaustive report is overwhelmingly positive and constructive,” the network said. “The Pentagon validated what repeal advocates and social scientists have been saying about open service for over a decade. Still, some initial resistance may come from one or more of the service chiefs - the very leaders who will be charged with implementing this change. Those chiefs will need to salute and lead in bringing about this needed change.”

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