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Most straight soldiers say they’re okay with gay comrades
Poll from 1993 compared to latest shows acceptance increased by 60 percentage points

by Steve Rawls

Seventy-three percent of military members are comfortable serving with lesbians and gays.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new poll from Zogby International and the Michael D. Palm Center reveals that U.S. military personnel are increasingly comfortable serving with openly gay colleagues. The poll, released Dec. 18, reveals that 73 percent of military members are comfortable with lesbians and gays. Nearly one in four (23 percent) service members report knowing for sure that someone in their unit is lesbian or gay, including 21 percent of those in combat units.

“This poll is one more nail in the coffin of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). Those who defend the law have argued that openly gay personnel harm military readiness. This research highlights the absurdity of such a hypothesis. Not only are there more than 65,000 lesbians and gays serving in the armed forces, but many are serving openly. Their straight colleagues are just fine with that. At a time when our fighting forces are stretched thin and leaders are calling for the recruitment of more troops, it is time for Congress to do away with this archaic law.”

The poll of 545 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan also found that, even among those who did not know for certain if a gay colleague was in their unit, nearly half (45 percent) suspected as much. Among those who did know a gay colleague, few said their presence undermined morale. In 1993, only 13 percent of enlisted personnel supported open service.

The Zogby poll is the latest in a series of polls and public statements indicating readiness for a change in policy. A 2004 Annenberg poll found that a majority of junior enlisted personnel favor allowing gays to serve openly, up from 13 percent in other polls from 1993. Among the general public, Gallup has found 79 percent support repealing the gay ban. A recent Boston Globe poll also found that a majority of conservatives and regular church-goers favor repeal, too.

Senior military leaders are increasingly speaking up in favor of reviewing the ban on open service as well. Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.), the first female to achieve three-star rank in the Army, recently called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a “hollow policy that serves no useful purpose.” Lt. Gen. Daniel W. Christman, former superintendent of West Point, told The New York Times, “It is clear that national attitudes toward this issue have evolved considerably in the last decade. This has been led by a new generation of service members who take a more relaxed and tolerant view toward homosexuality.”
“There has been a seismic shift among the military and the public in favor of welcoming gay patriots in our armed forces,” said Osburn. “Congress should follow the example of those who serve on the frontlines every day and repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all.”

Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) will re-introduce The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allows gays to serve openly, when Congress reconvenes in 2007. During the 109th Congress, a bipartisan coalition of 123 lawmakers supported the bill.

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