Equality Matters

One Year Later: FRC’s Top Five DADT Horror Stories Never Came True

September 20, 2012 12:49 pm ET

The Family Research Council (FRC) was one of the most vocal organization’s opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in the months leading up to the policy’s ultimate demise. Now, on the one-year anniversary of the end of DADT, a new report from the Palm Center, a research institute focused on sexuality and the military, debunks FRC’s five most damaging predictions about open service.

Palm Center Report: DADT Repeal Has Had No Negative Impact On Military

Palm Center Report: “Based On All Of The Evidence Available To Us... DADT Repeal Has Had No Overall Negative Impact.” A September 2012 report published by the Palm Center – a branch of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law – found:

Our conclusion, based on all of the evidence available to us, is that DADT repeal has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. Although we identified a few downsides that followed from the policy change, we identified upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh benefits. If anything, DADT repeal appears to have enhanced the military's ability to pursue its mission. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012]

Palm Center Report Included Interviews With Opponents Of DADT Repeal, Experts, Watchdog Organizations. According to the Palm Center’s report:

Our research strategies included outreach to 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, to all major activists and expert opponents of DADT repeal and to 18 watchdog organizations, including opponents and advocates of repeal, who are known for their ability to monitor Pentagon operations. In addition, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 scholars and practitioners and 62 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch, as well as on-site field observations of four military units. We analyzed relevant media articles published during the research period, administered two surveys and conducted secondary source analysis of surveys independently administered by outside organizations. Our vigorous effort to collect data from opponents of DADT repeal, including anti-repeal generals and admirals, activists, academic experts, service members and watchdog organizations, should sustain confidence in the validity and impartiality of our findings. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012, emphasis added]

FRC: Repeal Will Increase The Rate of Sexual Assault

FRC’s Peter Sprigg: “The Problem Of Same-Sex Sexual Assault... Is Sure To Increase.” Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at FRC, authored an issue brief titled “Homosexual Assault in the Military,” in which he argues:

The military already has a serious problem with sexual assault by homosexuals. If the current law against homosexuality in the military is overturned, the problem of same-sex sexual assault in the military is sure to increase. [FRC, “Homosexual Assault In The Military,” May 2010, emphasis original]

Palm Center Report: Experts “All Concur That Repeal Has Not Led To Any Increase In Assaults.” According to the Palm Center’s report:

[A] comparison of pre- and post-repeal Military Times surveys suggests that the rate of male-male sexual assault did not increase after DADT repeal went into effect. In response to a July/August 2011 pre-repeal Military Times survey, 1.4% of male respondents said that they had been a victim of sexual assault while in the military, compared to 1.1% of male service members who indicated on a January 2012 post-repeal survey that they had been victimized. The pre-repeal percent of men who reported having been sexually assaulted during their military service, in other words, was roughly equivalent to the post-repeal rate. These data call into question any assertion that repeal has led to an increase in assaults.

No other watchdog organization or individual opponent of DADT repeal has reported any case of violence attributable to the new policy of open service. Professor Mackubin Owens, who teaches at the Naval War College and opposes repeal, acknowledged to us that he is unaware of any violent or disciplinary incidents that can be attributed to repeal. A retired general who  also opposes repeal told us that he has “friends in the military who are disappointed” that DADT is gone but who “have not reported any specific incidences of problems.” With the exception of the spurious [Center for Military Readiness] statement as well as the unconfirmed incident conveyed by OutServe’s Co-Director, military leaders, opponents of DADT repeal,  active-duty personnel, scholars and gayrights organizations all concur that repeal has not led to any increase in assaults. And, they agree that there has been no violence to date specifically associated with the new policy. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012, emphasis added]

FRC: Repeal Will Undermine Servicemember Morale

FRC’s Tony Perkins: DADT Repeal “Could Devastate Morale.” In a Politico column co-written with retired Marine Corps. General John Sheehan, FRC President Tony Perkins argued:

[H]omosexuality carries with it profound behavioral implications. Sexual attraction among members of the same sex — living, exercising, fighting and training alongside one another in the closest of quarters — could devastate morale, foster heightened interpersonal tension and lead to division among those who, more than virtually any other group in society, need to act as one. [Politico, 6/15/10]

Palm Center Report: No Apparent “Measurable Consequences” As A Result Of Morale Change. According to the Palm Center’s report:

The new policy of open service produced a decrease in morale for a small minority of service members, and enhanced the morale of an even smaller minority. Yet few of those troops who experienced a decline in morale appear to have suffered any measurable consequences. This should come as no surprise, as the extensive scholarly literature on the determinants of military morale does not mention the presence or absence of LGB colleagues. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012]

FRC: Repeal Will Undermine Recruitment And Retention

FRC’s Perkins: “Thousands Of Servicemembers” Will Choose Not To Reenlist After DADT Repeal. In Washington Update written on the day DADT was repealed, Perkins predicted:

Expect to see celebrations from homosexual groups and fawning stories in the media about how "the sky has not fallen." That's only because there will be no press releases from the new victims of sexual harassment or assault, the soldiers exposed to HIV-tainted blood, the thousands of servicemembers who choose not to reenlist rather than forfeit their freedom of speech and religion, and the untold number of citizens who choose never to join the military. It's clear this President is more interested in appeasing sexual revolutionaries than in fighting America's enemies. [FRC Washington Update, via Box Turtle Bulletin, 9/20/11, emphasis added]  

FRC’s Robert Maginnis: Repeal Will Cause Potential Recruits To Opt Out Of Joining The Military. In a 2010 report titled “Mission Compromised,” FRC Senior Fellow for National Security Robert Maginnis argues:

Repeal the homosexual ban, and there will be some candidates, with the encouragement of significant others like parents, who will remove themselves from the military’s pool of eligible candidates.  Conversely, there is no evidence qualified homosexuals – who make up barely two percent of the American public – will flood into the military to make up any shortfall. [FRC, “Mission Compromised,” 2010]

Palm Center Report: “DADT Repeal Has Not Had Any Measurable Impact On Recruitment Or Retention.” According to the Palm Center’s report:

As discussed, a minority of service members reports that DADT repeal has influenced their likelihood of remaining in the military, with some indicating that repeal has made them less likely to re-enlist and others suggesting that they are more likely to remain. What the preponderance of evidence shows, however, is that DADT repeal has not had any measurable impact on recruitment or retention, even among chaplains.  It is certainly true that the weak domestic economy and disengagement from two wars have made recruitment and retention easier. But in an era when enlistment standards have tightened, service members were just as likely to say that they plan to re-enlist  after DADT repeal  as  was the case pre-repeal. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012, emphasis added]

FRC: Repeal Will Undermine Unit Cohesion

FRC’s Sprigg: Open Service “Is Incompatible With Good Order, Morale, Discipline, And Unit Cohesion.” In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Sprigg stated: 

SPRIGG: The presence of homosexuals in the military is incompatible with good order, morale, discipline, and unit cohesion. That's exactly what Congress found in 1993. And that's what the law states. [MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews2/2/10]

Palm Center Report: “Cohesion Did Not Decline” After DADT Repeal. According to the Palm Center’s report:

Even in those units that included openly LGB service members, and that consequently should have been the most likely to experience a drop in cohesion as a result of repeal, cohesion did not decline after the new policy of open service was put into place. In fact, greater openness and honesty resulting from repeal seem to have promoted increased understanding, respect and acceptance. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012]

FRC: Repeal Will Undermine Religious Freedom For Military Chaplains

FRC’s Perkins: Chaplains May Be “Forced Out Of The Military” By DADT Repeal. In a statement to CNN, FRC’s Perkins warned that DADT repeal could undermine religious liberties of those in the military, particularly chaplains. He explained:

“You have over 200 sponsoring organizations that may be prevented from sponsoring chaplains because they hold orthodox Christian views that will be in conflict with what the military says is stated policy,” said Perkins.

“Most people don’t understand the military environment," said Perkins, a retired Marine. "It’s not like going to work at 8 o’clock in the morning, it’s 24-7. The strains - especially right now where you have people in one enlistment doing multiple tours of duty overseas - the strain on the family, the strain on the marriages... those chaplains don’t just preach, they counsel as well and we may see them forced out of the military, then who is going to be there to help those men and women who are sacrificing so much.” [CNN, 5/27/10]

Palm Center Report: DADT Repeal Has Had “No Measurable Impact” On Chaplain Retention. According to the Palm Center’s report:

Even among chaplains, the evidence suggests that DADT repeal has had no measurable impact on retention. Chaplains were thought to be among those most likely to leave the military after DADT repeal, in part because  contracts allow them to resign more quickly than other military members, and many threatened to resign if LGB troops were allowed to serve openly. Such concerns, however, have proven to be unwarranted. Lieutenant Colonel Lisa H. Tice, a chaplain who serves in the personnel, budget and readiness division of the Air Force Office of the Chief of Chaplains, told us that no Air Force chaplains left the military as a result of DADT repeal. Navy Chaplain Capt. John H. Lea III reported that one Navy chaplain separated because of repeal. Lieutenant Colonel Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army Chief of Chaplains, said that in March 2011, one Army chaplain left the military over the pending repeal of DADT. But when we called the Army Chief of Chaplains office in June 2012, a spokesperson told us that, “We’ve had nobody else leave for that stated reason in the Army out of the 3,000 or so full-time and part-time chaplains” and that no endorsing denominations had withdrawn their endorsements as a result of DADT repeal. [Palm Center, “One Year Out,” September 2012]

AP: Military Chaplains “Knew Of Virtually No Serious Problems” Involving Religious Freedom After DADT Repeal. According to the Associated Press:

Prior to repeal, various conservative groups and individuals — including many conservative retired chaplains — warned that repeal would trigger an exodus of chaplains whose faiths consider homosexual activity to be sinful. In fact, there's been no significant exodus — perhaps two or three departures of active-duty chaplains linked to the repeal. Moreover, chaplains or their civilian coordinators from a range of conservative faiths told The Associated Press they knew of virtually no serious problems thus far involving infringement of chaplains' religious freedom or rights of conscience.

 "To say the dust has settled would be premature," said Air Force Col. Gary Linsky, a Roman Catholic priest who oversees 50 fellow chaplains in the Air Mobility Command. "But I've received no complaints from chaplains raising concerns that their ministries were in any way conflicted or constrained."

[Air Force chaplain Col. Timothy] Wagoner, who commands five other chaplains at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in central New Jersey, said the chaplaincy corps was responding professionally and collegially to what he called a "balancing act" precipitated by the repeal.

"We're good at this stuff — we want to take care of our folks," he said. "We have to respect the faith requirements of the chaplain and we have to take care of the needs of the airman."

That attitude meshes with the official Pentagon guidelines on the repeal: "The Chaplain Corps' First Amendment freedoms and their duty to care for all have not changed. All service members will continue to serve with others who may hold different views and beliefs, and they will be expected to treat everyone with respect." [Associated Press, 7/6/12, emphasis added]

&mdash C.M.

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