US Military Downplays Impact of DADT Repeal

While Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is “worried” about the politicization of the US military, the Department of Defense has published some starkly pointed articles praising the repeal of the politically-charged policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

This largely mirrors the narrative in the mainstream press — everybody is “cool” with homosexuals serving in the US military (and think of the children…).  Amazingly, little attention is given to the voices saying its not as rose-colored as some seem to think.  The Stars and Stripes pointed out one negative finding otherwise unreported in the press.  Elaine Donnelly got a single line.  Only the FRC has noted the Palm Center buried their own data showing 20% of units that had a homosexual “come out” after repeal had a negative impact as a result — data that is hardly a “non-event.”

In “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Never Mattered,” a US Marine Corporal took to the internet under an official DoD byline to say DADT repeal has done nothing — good or bad.  Ignoring for a moment that he’s taking about federal law, so it certainly “mattered,” it is more interesting to see his source for such a claim:  The agenda-based “study” performed by the Palm Center, which Corporal Sean Dennison manages to call an “exhaustive work” while keeping a straight face.

(Nathaniel Frank, one of the authors of the study, has been unabashed about his bias and critical of the “exaggerated” claims of those whom his study was meant to undermine.)

The Corporal pontificates on the greater issues:

DADT always seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to me…Gay servicemen and women were getting discharged during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns…when the last thing on anybody’s mind should’ve been their fellow fighter’s bedfellows…

Civil rights aside, DADT never made sense to me logistically. Of the thousands discharged, how many were mission-critical specialists, including linguists, infantry men, and medical aides? What difference could they have made on the front line?

A “knee jerk reaction?”  What part of the 200-year ban on homosexual service in the US military was “knee jerk?”  The comment about others’ “bedfellows” is likewise naïve, considering the US military has always — and still does — evaluate the behavior of its troops for acceptability.

The comment on the “logistical” impact of discharging “mission critical” troops who were breaking the law is similarly ignorant.  As noted here years ago, the US military discharged more people for being pregnant or overweight (but physically fit) than it did for being homosexual. What of the impact that larger group would have had on the mission?  What of their “civil rights?”

Dennison does say there have been some “adverse reactions” to repeal, but says

uniformed professionalism usually won out in these encounters.

Therein lies the self-fulfilling prophecy that is DADT repeal. US troops could be told to fight the enemy with only a spork and an eyepatch while singing tunes by Elton John.  There would certainly be protests prior to such a policy being put in place, but once it was, US servicemembers would do what they always do in such situations: salute smartly and carry on.

Adhering to military policies does not equate to agreeing with them, nor does the implementation of such policies validate them.  Saying there have been ‘no problems’ since DADT was repealed is no more surprising than saying there were ‘no problems’ when the Army went to the universal black beret or space operators lost their flight suits. Lots of people didn’t like it.  They still did it. The US military is not the Chicago teachers’ union.  If told to jump, troops jump.

The impact of social policy changes like that of DADT can be measured in two ways: The effect on the institutional moral state and the impact to military effectiveness.  The change to the institutional moral state is obvious; the only question is whether one considers that change “good” or “bad.” To effectiveness, short of actually ordering troops into battle without bullets there would be no immediate measurable result to almost any similar institutional change.  In other words, only time will tell.

Even so, there may not be a direct correlation between the US military’s institutional acceptance of homosexuality and military effectiveness (ie, A negative moral direction results in negative effectiveness).  Obviously, “immoral” armies have had significant military successes throughout world history.


  • If it is obvious, perhaps you could point to some evidence of a change in the institutional moral state.

  • And interesting to see you call the Israeli army immoral!

  • @Donalbain
    As an example, the evolution of the military to what troops call a “one mistake” Army.

    To your second point, no such statement was made. Upon what basis do you draw that conclusion? And why the specific reference to the Israeli military? Does it hold some special value to you?

  • Corporal Dennison’s “logistical sense” argument works better the other way around. If the DoD hadn’t stopped “asking” and instead enforced the 1993 law’s statutory prohibition by screening out homosexuals in the first place, the DoD would have avoided investing in training personnel who by their own admission intend or are likely to commit homosexual acts in violation of the UCMJ.

    By any count, the number of personnel discharged as a result of the homosexual exclusion policy was always tiny–on the order of one or two percent of discharges each year. The arguments that DADT or the previous policies prohibiting homosexuals to serve in the military adversely affected military readiness are wholly without merit.

  • The “Gay Military Families Come Out” article highlights one of the most challenging problems for Christian servicemembers, particularly for officers and senior enlisted personnel. Integration of a unit member’s same-sex partner into formal and informal command social structures puts us in the awkward position of having to either treat the same sex partner as a legitimately married spouse or to decline participation in these command events. This is one of the silent killers of morale and unit cohesion that comes with the DADT repeal. And officers and senior enlisted members have a special obligation to continue to sustain unit morale and cohesion, but we have no obligation to treat a servicemember’s same-sex partner as a legally married spouse. A guest of the command, yes. Spouse, no.

  • The “Mixed Race Military Families Come Out” article highlights one of the most challenging problems for racist servicemembers, particularly for officers and senior enlisted personnel. Integration of a unit member’s other race partner into formal and informal command social structures puts us in the awkward position of having to either treat the same other race partner as a legitimately married spouse or to decline participation in these command events.

  • @Donalbain
    The failed effort to morally equate race and behavior is not suddenly legitimized by its repetition.

  • And yet you have NEVER shown any moral difference between mixed race and same gender marriage. You keep CLAIMING they are different, but you have never shown any evidence what so ever.

  • @Donalbain,

    Asserting moral equivalence between mixed-race marriages and same-sex “marriage” is absurd.

    First, same sex “marriage” doesn’t even exist in most states, and is not recognized under federal law, which is controlling for US military personnel. Second, racial distinctions are morally neutral because race has no behavioral component, whereas homosexuality is defined by a particular set of behaviors and relationships. In most civilizations and throughout most of human history, homosexuality has been considered immoral conduct. Under both natural law constructs and Christian doctrine, homosexuality is considered a corruption of the human reproductive drive. In both teleological and deontological moral frameworks, homosexuality is arguably immoral on the basis of acts committed by homosexuals and on the basis of the negative consequences both for the individual and society of those acts. Homosexuality has been tolerated in some societies, but rarely if ever has it been widely celebrated as a moral good.

    You can have a different moral view, but claiming ignorance of the different moral views simply suggests you have an ostrich-like view of the moral landscape.

    Here is ONE indisputable moral difference between same-sex relationships and marriage: married heterosexuals are capable of producing offspring, raising them in a stable family, and sustaining the human race. Homosexual couples are not.

  • @Donalbain,

    The more disturbing thing about your smarmy, sophomoric response is that you seem entirely uninterested in the real problems this poses for serving military members. It seems you care much more about your social agenda than about the health and readiness of military units. For you, this seems to be all about using your argument as a bludgeon against others of good will who sincerely disagree with you as a matter of conscience, whether for religious or for secular reasons.

    Instead of respecting those who have different views, you smear them as racists. You’re hurting your arguments more than you’re helping them. You’re intolerant of others’ views and you subordinate military effectiveness to a fringe social agenda. If every advocate for integrating homosexuals behaves as you do, they will make it very, very easy to reinstitute the homosexual exclusion policy under the next administration.

  • 1) Gender has no behavioural component, just as race does not. Thus, even if sexual morality WERE defined by behavioural components of the partners (which I do not believe it is), mixed race marriage would be morally equal to same gendered marriage.

    2) In most civilisations throughout history, slavery was considered moral conduct. So, I don’t really give a damn what happened in most civilisations.

    3) I dont care about Christian constructs and I dont believe that there is any such thing as Natural Law in any moral sense. And more importantly, the law of the United States is not based on any Christian construct.

    4) A nice unsupported claim about the negative effects of homosexuality on society. Since it is unsupported, it can be easily dismissed.

    5) Miscegenation has been tolerated in some societies but rarely….

    6) I have not claimed ignorance of your moral views. I simply find them to be repugnant and bigoted.

    7) The integration of the races caused racists in the military real problems. I don’t lose any sleep over that. If bigots are sad, that is their problem. I notice no evidence for your claim about any effect on the health of military personnel.

    8) I don’t think bigots like you (cue clutching of pearls) are people of good will. I think you are a homophobic, hateful person.

    9) Fringe social agenda? This is not some brand new, novel thing. Gay people have served openly in the military of many countries for years now. As usual, the USA as a whole is on the fringe of western society in this matter, but even within the USA, support for their continued military service is held by the majority of the population.

    10) The next administration? Even if a miracle were to happen and Romney were somehow to win the election, both he and his running mate have said that they would not support a return to the bigoted positions of the past.

  • @Donalbain

    Gender has no behavioural component…

    Taken in the context of this discussion, your statement is nonsensical.

    I think you are a homophobic, hateful person.

    Funny thing, that. If you read the conversation above, it seems the person displaying the most “hate” is you. In the end, name-calling is unnecessary.

    The word “fringe” does not refer to something’s age or history. Look it up. A movement of 2 to 3% could certainly be described as “fringe.”

  • @Donalbain:

    There are a lot of honorable, long-serving military members who are struggling to balance their respect for serving homosexuals with their moral aversion to homosexual relationships and conduct. That you have so little regard for the tightrope they walk suggests you have no useful answers for how the heterosexual majority is to accommodate the tiny homosexual minority. You care only about your agenda, and nothing about the defense of our nation or the religious liberty of others.

    It is unreasonable for you to ask JD to catch you up on the moral arguments against homosexuality. Again, you don’t have to agree with them, but to deny that any exist is just to reveal that you are unschooled and unprepared to enter into this debate with serious people. Recommend you pick up a freshman-level textbook on moral philosophy.

    You don’t seem to be reaching for mutual understanding or advancing any line of argumentation. You are just trolling. I think it is time to invoke the Matthew 7:6 principle here.

  • JD: a position held by the majority of people is not a fringe opinion. The majority of people in the USA support the idea that gay people should be able to serve openly in the military. Therefore allowing gay people to serve is not a fringe opinion.

    SS: Fair enough, if you don’t want to support the claims you make then that is fine by me. You can go on claiming that homosexuals will harm society, your unsupported claims will end up in the same bin of history as the claims of the people opposed to miscengenation. The rest of us will simply sigh, shake our heads at you and allow you to rant at the horrors you see in the world.

  • @Donalbain
    It seems we’re talking about different goalposts. Homosexuality itself is a fringe behavioral group; those that push a homosexual social construct are advocating a fringe social agenda. That some percentage of Americans is indifferent to it does not normalize it.

  • Nope. If the agenda is supported by the majority of people, it not a fringe agenda.

  • @Donalbain,

    You are overly optimistic in reading poll results. There is still a sizable percentage of the American population that consider homosexuality immoral. Gallup’s most recent poll on the morality of homosexuality showed a 48-48 split among Americans, which represents the historic high-water mark on this question. See

    Nonetheless, there is a sizable gap in what voters tell pollsters and how they behave when they go to the polls. So far, in statewide referenda on gay “marriage,” opponents of redefining marriage have won 32 out of 32 times.

    And if you press very hard, you find that outside of the approximately 21% of Americans who are self-identified liberals, support for homosexuality is extremely soft. Unless they’re an activist, they mostly haven’t thought through the consequences of their position very hard, and when confronted with the real public policy consequences of encouraging homosexuality, they are open to persuasion. On the other hand, the 48% who swim against the tide to oppose homosexuality tend to be firmer in their positions and more motivated to act on their convictions.

    This is particularly true on the issue of the military’s homosexual exclusion policy, which is much less well understood by the average voter than the gay marriage issue. In 1993, Congress held extensive hearings before enacting DADT, and as a result of the hearings, public opinion solidified behind the homosexual exclusion policy. In 2010, when the DADT repeal took place, there was no debate, no hearings, and the public was largely uninformed either by Congress or by DoD witnesses on the public consequences of the polcy change. It was enacted into law on a party line vote in a midnight session of a lame-duck Congress at the highwater mark of exclusive Democrat control of the Federal Government. This is the antithesis of a public mandate or consensus.

    Yes, the gay rights agenda is still a fringe agenda.

  • Fair enough. A position held by a majority of the people is a fringe position. When you are doubling down on that particular brand of stupidity, I guess it is time for me to bow out and let you continue to live in your own, strange, universe.

  • Actually, I just noticed something that I feel compelled to note in case other people come here and think you are an honest person arguing honestly.

    You quote a YEARLY survey taken by Gallup in 2008. You say that this is the most recent poll. You say it is a historic high water mark.

    Both of those claims are factually wrong, and are shown to be wrong by the first line of the website which gives the date as 2008.

    Here is the latest data from Gallup:

    I know I said I would leave you alone, but I think it is important, for the sake of people reading this exchange, that it be shown how dishonest you are.

  • So quick to accuse, Donalbain. I wasn’t intionally trying to mislead anyone…it was just an honest mistake. Indeed, YOU found the more recent data easily enough by following my link.

    Note though that the May 2012 shows a result that validates my argument. The 2012 data shows a marked reversal in the trend for moral acceptability of homosexuality from 2011 to 2012. I would suggest this reversal probably coincides with the increasingly activeand visible pro-marriage campaign being waged by the National Organization for Marriage and other newly-formed state affiliates.

    I repeat my previous assertion…outside of the 2-3% who self-identify as homosexual and the ~21% who self-identify as liberal, support for gay rights is extremely soft.

  • It is also instructive to examine how badly misinformed the American voter is on this issue. Another recent (2011) Gallup poll showed that the average American believes 25% of the population is gay. Among women and “young adults,” the estimate was as high as 30%. These estimates are of course wildly inaccurate, as the most reliable scientific studies show the homosexual population to be between 1 and 3% of the US population.

    See and

    When these misperceptions are challenged through highly visible public debates and well-funded referendum campaigns, support for gay rights initiatives drops like a rock. It can only survive when opponents are silent.

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  • Again, you are dishonest. There is no marked change. Indeed, the difference between the two years is within the error of the poll.

  • And I am sure that it was purely luck that you happened to accidentally use the last year that supports your claim.

  • You are ungracious, Donalbain. I admitted my error. No need to attribute to malice what can easily be explained by carelessness.

    And as far as errors go, it really doesn’t affect my argument. Whether the highwater mark for moral acceptability of homosexuality came in 2008 or 2011 is not that important when you consider the overall historical trend. The facts are as follows:

    1. Moral approval of homosexuality is extraordinarily recent in American history. It is only during the Obama presidency that it crossed the 50% threshold. By historical terms, this is still an anomaly.
    2. Moral disapproval for homosexuality remains widespread.
    3. The trend toward moral approval is not irreversible or inevitable. In fact, it appears to have reversed in the most recent sample. The 2012 reversal is not statistically insignificant, as you have asserted — it went from a 17 point difference in 2011 to an 8-point difference in 2012. We’ll wait to see
    4. Public opinion on these issues are based on widespread misinformation that can withstand a public debate, such as the belief that 25-30% of Americans are homosexual.
    5. Further evidence for the softness of support for gay rights is in performance at the ballot box. Gay marriage referenda are the latest evidence. In 32 of 32 statewide referenda, gay marriage has lost. That’s an impressive losing streak for gay rights.

  • Correction to typo in my point #4 above: public opinion on these issues are based on widespread misinformation that CANNOT withstand public debate.