WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon‘s study on gays in the military has determined that overturning the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on serving openly might cause some disruption at first but would not create widespread or long-lasting problems.
The study provides ammunition to congressional Democrats struggling to overturn the law. But even with the release of Tuesday’s report, there is no indication they can overcome fierce Republican objections with just a few weeks left in this year’s postelection congressional session.
Still, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said Congress should act quickly because of a recent effort by a federal judge to overturn the law.
Mr. Gates said the military needs time to prepare for such an adjustment, even though he said he didn’t envision any changes to housing or other personnel policies. He said a sudden, court-issued mandate would increase the risk of disruption significantly.
“Given the present circumstances, those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts,” Mr. Gates told reporters.
The co-chairs of the study, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, wrote, “We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war.”
Overall, the survey found that some two-thirds of troops don’t care if the ban is lifted. Of the 30 percent who objected, most were members of combat units.
In fact, at least 40 percent of combat troops said the acceptance of gays serving openly would be a bad idea. That number climbs to 58 percent among Marines serving in combat roles.
A summary of the report says 69 percent of respondents believe they already have served alongside a gay person. Of those who believed that, 92 percent said their units were able to work together, and 8 percent said the units functioned poorly as a result.
“We have a gay guy. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay,” the report quotes a member of the special operations force as saying.
The report predicts that many gay troops still would keep their sexual orientation quiet even after the ban was lifted. That discretion probably would be more common in the military than in the civilian world, the report’s authors said.
Of the survey respondents who said they were gay, only 15 percent said they would want that known to everyone in their unit.
The summary included anonymous quotes from gay troops currently serving.
“I will just be me,” one person said. “I will bring my family to family events. I will put family pictures on my desk. I am not going to go up to people and say: ‘Hi there. I’m gay.’”