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Did the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Break the U.S. Military?

In 2010, as the presidential administration of Barack Obama began laying the groundwork for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the prohibition on gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, American conservatives predicted dire consequences. The conservative periodical Human Events issued a typical prediction:

Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, told HUMAN EVENTS that his concern is that if the policy is repealed the military may lose out on retaining personnel. A poll by Military Times showed that between 10% and 25% of those who are currently in the military might say, “I’m not going to serve.”

“You will break the all-volunteer force. And in time of war, in time of great — and growing –  international threats to this country, that’s not something we can afford to do,” said Gaffney.

In 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibition was officially ended.  Has the U.S. military indeed been “broken” as a consequence?

As Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times reported a year after the change, the predicted 10-25% exodus didn’t materialize:

Pentagon officials say that recruiting, retention, and overall morale have not been affected.  None of the dire predictions of opponents, including warnings of a mass exodus of active duty troops, have occurred.

An ongoing Military Times poll regarding gay and lesbian people in the U.S. military shows that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discrimination didn’t break the military.  On the contrary, the military shifted its culture and has increasingly approved of gay and lesbian participation in military life:

Military Times Poll on Gay Servicemembers in the U.S. military, 2006-2015

In the meantime, researchers (a majority of whom are affiliated with U.S. military educational institutions) determined that despite their effort at “identifying evidence of damage caused by repeal” of discrimination against gay and lesbian people in the military, they could find none.  The researchers were particularly damning of the prediction that repeal would impact military “readiness”:

A comparison of 2011 pre-repeal and 2012 post-repeal Military Times survey data shows that service members reported approximately the same level of military readiness after DADT repeal as before it. On all four components of readiness measured by Military Times surveys (quality of training, officers and enlisted leaders, and whether today’s service members are the best ever), the 2012 post-repeal data indicate approximately the same levels as the 2011 pre-repeal data.14 If repeal had compromised overall readiness in any discernible way, it would be hard to understand why every dimension of readiness assessed by Military Times survey respondents remained stable after the new policy of open service went into effect.

Considering related predictions that legalization of same-sex nuptials would somehow destroy American heterosexual marriages, the predictive ability of conservative America isn’t looking too good.  The next time you hear someone say that ending some other kind of discrimination will lead to a horrible result for America, keep that record in mind.

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