It has been 18 years since “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” came into effect and one year since it was repealed. In that time, zero negative effects have been discovered.
A few years ago, as the possibility of repeal became more real, naysayers worried about the detrimental effects that would occur if openly gay people were allowed to serve in the military. Perhaps there would be a big decline in enlistment. Maybe gay and lesbian service members would pose a risk to national security.
That hasn’t happened.
According to the Palm Center’s new study, One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness, “The repeal has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.” A wide array of negative and rather ridiculous predictions were made ranging from an increase in sexual assaults to the belief, as stated by the Flag & General Officers For The Military, that it would “undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force,” none of which have come to fruition.
In fact, open service has proved to have no harmful effect anywhere it is allowed. Australia, Israel and the United Kingdom are among the countries that have shown there is no negative impact in having gay and lesbian members serving its country. Despite all the studies, however, some still feel the new policy should be reviewed, a subject that came up recently in the Republican National Convention platform.
While repeal hasn’t had an impact on military readiness, it has be a major force in furthering the acceptance of gay and lesbian Americans. Decorated veteran Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach said briefly in an interview on CNN that “This means more than my retirement paperwork to me…This means the fight’s over for everyone. There are 65,000 others out there today that can put on their uniform and drive onto their base and go into work and they no longer have to hide or lie. They can serve with dignity and honor.”
Times are changing. Repeal is one more step toward the ultimate goal of full equality. The empirical evidence foreshadows a future where we will all be accepted and respected. Let’s make sure we, as a country, don’t take a step backward, only forward.