Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Continue to Ask, Pray Tell

• February 17, 2010 • 12:42 PM

While the Pentagon gathers new information to support repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, academics say there’s plenty out there already.

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month to endorse a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, he cautioned that the military first would undertake a favorite Washington pastime: studying the topic long and hard, probably for about a year.

A special “high-level working group,” he said, will try to ferret out the true views of military personnel, understand the impact of repeal and its effect on unit cohesion, and plan ahead for logistical policy changes in arenas like housing and fraternization. The department is also asking the RAND Corporation to update a 1993 assessment of the same issues.

Gates’ proposal suggests that much unknown lies ahead, and in the most literal sense that’s true; the U.S. military has never openly integrated gays before, and so empirical evidence of what will happen is in short supply. There are two extensive sets of research, though, indicating the transition will be considerably less disruptive than critics of repeal suggest.

“Neither of them, of course, are really direct because it would be impossible to have research on lesbian, gay and bisexual peoples’ performance in the U.S. military because of the policy that we have,” said Clinton Anderson, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office with the American Psychological Association.

But according to the APA, the related research is convincing enough to render a new military study a waste of time and a disappointing delay in overturning the policy. (For the full APA position, click here). The same sentiment has been echoed by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Palm Center.

The first set of existing research speaks more broadly to issues of morale, unit cohesion and team building within the kind of small fighting units that define military life for most service members on the ground. Officers who talk of “unit cohesion” are referring not to a consensus across the entire military, but to the ability of these much smaller units to function. And research has repeatedly found that people who don’t particularly like each other still can work together effectively, subordinating their personal feelings in a goal- and task-oriented environment precisely like the military. They’re bound not by social cohesion, but by task cohesion.

[class name=”dont_print_this”]

Idea Lobby

THE IDEA LOBBY
Miller-McCune's Washington correspondent Emily Badger follows the ideas informing, explaining and influencing government, from the local think tank circuit to academic research that shapes D.C. policy from afar.

[/class]

Additionally, evidence outside of the military in society suggests that knowing a gay, lesbian or bisexual person reduces prejudice toward the group.

The second body of relevant literature analyzes the experiences of other countries, such as Canada, Israel and Great Britain, which have integrated gays into the military with little adverse effect. And while the U.S. military has never done exactly that, it has had relevant experience folding women and ethnic minorities into the ranks.

“I don’t think anyone has shown there are any very large problems that have arisen,” Anderson said.

Which makes the military’s plea for new information in a vacuum seem either ill-informed or disingenuous. The plan for a full year of study also reverses the process by which most new laws are enacted. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell must be overturned not by the Department of Defense, but by Congress. Typically, Congress passes a law, and federal agencies then have to figure out how to implement it.

Many members of Congress, though, and particularly those who’ve historically opposed repeal, have said they’ll defer to the judgment of top military officers, staking out a position that offers both political cover and reason to keep the topic off the docket just a little while longer.

“I think the military and the administration are trying to provide something that will allow Congress to feel good about acting because Congress obviously defers very strongly to the military,” Anderson said. “If that’s what has to happen, that’s what has to happen, but we don’t see any justification for it. The evidence from our perspective is clear: It’s a bad policy, it should be repealed, and we don’t see any justification for delaying it.”

Anderson also points to a third — and perhaps most influential — body of evidence: recent polls showing the majority of Americans favor repealing the law as well. The rest of the relevant research may be buried in academic journals and professional association policy papers, but this evidence has lately been headlining newspapers across the country.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll, 70 percent of people supported allowing “gay men and lesbians” to serve openly (although the percentage was lower when using the phrase “homosexuals”). A Washington Post/ABC poll pegged the number at 75 percent, and The Pew Research Center at 61 percent.

Given historic trends, those figures likely will be higher by the time the DoD finishes trying to figure out what everyone thinks — by which time, according to the APA, only more harm will be done.

Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Are you on Facebook? Become our fan.

Follow us on Twitter.

Add our news to your site.

Emily Badger
Emily Badger is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area who has contributed to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. She previously covered college sports for the Orlando Sentinel and lived and reported in France.

More From Emily Badger

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

December 18 • 2:00 PM

Women in Apocalyptic Fiction Shaving Their Armpits

Because our interest in realism apparently only goes so far.


December 18 • 12:00 PM

The Paradox of Choice, 10 Years Later

Paul Hiebert talks to psychologist Barry Schwartz about how modern trends—social media, FOMO, customer review sites—fit in with arguments he made a decade ago in his highly influential book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.


December 18 • 10:00 AM

What It’s Like to Spend a Few Hours in the Church of Scientology

Wrestling with thetans, attempting to unlock a memory bank, and a personality test seemingly aimed at people with depression. This is Scientology’s “dissemination drill” for potential new members.


December 18 • 8:00 AM

Gendering #BlackLivesMatter: A Feminist Perspective

Black men are stereotyped as violent, while black women are rendered invisible. Here’s why the gendering of black lives matters.


December 18 • 7:06 AM

Apparently You Can Bring Your Religion to Work

New research says offices that encourage talk of religion actually make for happier workplaces.


December 18 • 6:00 AM

The Very Weak and Complicated Links Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence

Vanderbilt University’s Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish address our anxieties and correct our assumptions.


December 18 • 4:00 AM

Should Movies Be Rated RD for Reckless Driving?

A new study finds a link between watching films featuring reckless driving and engaging in similar behavior years later.


December 17 • 4:00 PM

How to Run a Drug Dealing Network in Prison

People tend not to hear about the prison drug dealing operations that succeed. Substance.com asks a veteran of the game to explain his system.


December 17 • 2:00 PM

Gender Segregation of Toys Is on the Rise

Charting the use of “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” in American English.


December 17 • 12:41 PM

Why the College Football Playoff Is Terrible But Better Than Before

The sample size is still embarrassingly small, but at least there’s less room for the availability cascade.


December 17 • 11:06 AM

Canadian Kids Have a Serious Smoking Problem

Bootleg cigarette sales could be leading Canadian teens to more serious drugs, a recent study finds.


December 17 • 10:37 AM

A Public Lynching in Sproul Plaza

When photographs of lynching victims showed up on a hallowed site of democracy in action, a provocation was issued—but to whom, by whom, and why?


December 17 • 8:00 AM

What Was the Job?

This was the year the job broke, the year we accepted a re-interpretation of its fundamental bargain and bought in to the push to get us to all work for ourselves rather than each other.


December 17 • 6:00 AM

White Kids Will Be Kids

Even the “good” kids—bound for college, upwardly mobile—sometimes break the law. The difference? They don’t have much to fear. A professor of race and social movements reflects on her teenage years and faces some uncomfortable realities.



December 16 • 4:00 PM

How Fear of Occupy Wall Street Undermined the Red Cross’ Sandy Relief Effort

Red Cross responders say there was a ban on working with the widely praised Occupy Sandy relief group because it was seen as politically unpalatable.


December 16 • 3:30 PM

Murder! Mayhem! And That’s Just the Cartoons!

New research suggests deaths are common features of animated features aimed at children.


December 16 • 1:43 PM

In Tragedy, Empathy Still Dependent on Proximity

In spite of an increasingly connected world, in the face of adversity, a personal touch is most effective.


December 16 • 12:00 PM

The ‘New York Times’ Is Hooked on Drug du Jour Journalism

For the paper of record, addiction is always about this drug or that drug rather than the real causes.


December 16 • 10:00 AM

What Is the Point of Academic Books?

Ultimately, they’re meant to disseminate knowledge. But their narrow appeal makes them expensive to produce and harder to sell.


December 16 • 8:00 AM

Unjust and Unwell: The Racial Issues That Could Be Affecting Your Health Care

Physicians and medical students have the same problems with implicit bias as the rest of us.


December 16 • 6:00 AM

If You Get Confused Just Listen to the Music Play

Healing the brain with the Grateful Dead.


December 16 • 4:00 AM

Another Casualty of the Great Recession: Trust

Research from Britain finds people who were laid off from their jobs expressed lower levels of generalized trust.


December 15 • 4:00 PM

When Charter Schools Are Non-Profit in Name Only

Some charters pass along nearly all their money to for-profit companies hired to manage the schools. It’s an arrangement that’s raising eyebrows.


December 15 • 2:00 PM

No More Space Race

A far cry from the fierce Cold War Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, exploration in the 21st century is likely to be a much more globally collaborative project.


Follow us


Apparently You Can Bring Your Religion to Work

New research says offices that encourage talk of religion actually make for happier workplaces.

Canadian Kids Have a Serious Smoking Problem

Bootleg cigarette sales could be leading Canadian teens to more serious drugs, a recent study finds.

The Hidden Psychology of the Home Ref

That old myth of home field bias isn’t a myth at all; it’s a statistical fact.

A Word of Caution to the Holiday Deal-Makers

Repeat customers—with higher return rates and real bargain-hunting prowess—can have negative effects on a company’s net earnings.

Crowdfunding Works for Science

Scientists just need to put forth some effort.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.