- Associated Press - Thursday, July 8, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — An advocacy group for gays in the military is warning them not to answer a Pentagon survey seeking opinions on repeal of the policy that bans homosexuals from serving openly.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said Thursday that troops could be accidentally exposed by answering the survey and that the Defense Department has not agreed to grant immunity should that happen.

The survey was e-mailed to 400,000 service members as part of a wider review by a special working group that is studying how repeal of the policy might be implemented and how it could affect the military.

The Pentagon says the survey is confidential and is being done by an outside contractor who will strip out all identifying data. “They cannot be outed,” said Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The legal defense group said it’s not so sure.

“At this time SLDN cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members participate in any survey being administered by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon Working Group, or any third-party contractors,” Aubrey Sarvis, the defense group’s director, said in a statement.

Ms. Smith noted that the survey doesn’t ask whether a respondent is gay. It asks questions about their overall experience in the military, their experience in serving with people they believed were gay and their attitudes about how a change in the law might affect recruiting, privacy, unit cohesion and so on.

Officials stressed that the survey is not a referendum on the question of repeal but rather aimed at getting opinions and helping developing a plan for implementing any repeal.

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