Is there anyone left who still thinks "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a good idea? According to a new report released yesterday, the answer is increasingly no.
A group of four senior retired military officials weighed into the debate on Monday, making them the latest group of officers to declare that the federal ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members should be repealed. They join respected military leaders like General John Shalikashvili, the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, the Army's former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, in calling for an end to the exclusion of patriotic gay Americans from our armed forces.
"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers said, dealing a direct blow to the tried-and-disproved argument that has so often been deployed by proponents of the ban.
The group of four includes a three-star Air Force lieutenant general who was tasked with implementing the law in 1993; a retired Marine Corps General; and a Navy Vice Admiral. Two of the four identify as Republicans and two have backed Democratic candidates, making their conclusions truly bi-partisan in nature.
In fact, polls have shown that a majority of self-identified conservatives (65%, according to FOX News) support repeal of the law, along with 79% (according to Gallup) of the public at large. And it's with good reason.
If you have a loved one serving in the military, especially in a war zone, the sexual orientation of the doctor who provides medical care, the linguist who is translating terrorist chatter or the helicopter pilot assigned to air lift your son or daughter out of harm's way, simply doesn't matter. And so Republicans and Democrats alike understand that, when it comes to life and death in the war zone, qualification trumps sexual orientation or gender identity every time.
In the end, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't just bad for military readiness, it's bad for families, too.
It also puts service members in the untenable position of defying the services' core values, which include honesty and integrity. As Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan told the Associated Press, the policy, from its very beginning, forced troops to compromise their personal integrity in order to serve.
"Everyone was living a big lie -- the homosexuals were trying to hide their sexual orientation and the commanders were looking the other way because they didn't want to disrupt operations by trying to enforce the law," he said.
That's why yesterday's report, commissioned by The Michael Palm Center, is so important. It points out the harm "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" inflicts not only on the armed forces, but on the troops themselves. And it adds four more critical voices to the chorus calling for repeal.
It remains to be seen whether anti-gay activists like Elaine Donnelly, who blamed General Shalikashvili's support for repeal on his stroke, will try to malign and discredit the officers who authored this report. But there is no denying that, increasingly, those who support maintaining the ban are in a very small minority that's growing smaller, thankfully and for good reason, by the minute.