July 8th, 2010
03:43 PM ET
4 years ago

Advocacy group won't back 'don't ask, don't tell' survey participation

Washington (CNN) – Gay and lesbian members of the military should think twice before participating in a Pentagon survey on the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to a key advocacy group pushing to overturn the current law.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network - an organization that supports gays and lesbians serving openly in the military - issued a statement Thursday saying it cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members fill out the Defense Department questionnaire.

"There is no guarantee of privacy and (the Pentagon) has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself," said Aubrey Sarvis, the group's executive director. "If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation."


Asked for his reaction, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is "strongly" encouraging gays and lesbian service members to complete the survey.

Gates insisted during a Pentagon news conference that the confidentiality of respondents will protected. The survey is being conducted "in a very professional way," he asserted.

The Pentagon on Wednesday began sending out survey, which contains more than 100 questions seeking service members' views on the impact of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" restrictions.

An administration official confirmed to CNN that the survey is being sent to 200,000 active duty troops and 200,000 reserve troops. The official declined to be identified because the survey had not officially been made public.

The survey, which service members can expect to receive via e-mail, asks about such issues as how unit morale or readiness might be affected if a commander is believed to be gay or lesbian; the need to maintain personal standards of conduct; and how a repeal might affect willingness to serve in the military.

It also asks a number of questions aimed at identifying problems that could occur when troops live and work in close quarters in overseas war zones.

For example, the questionnaire asks military members how they would react if they had to share a room, bathrooms, and open-bay showers in a war zone with other service members believed to be gay or lesbian.

There also are several questions about reactions to dealing with same-sex partners in social situations.

The Pentagon established a team to conduct the survey earlier this year. President Barack Obama, Gates, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have all publicly backed a repeal of the current policy. Defense Department officials insist the survey is aimed at determining the impact of a repeal - not whether a repeal should happen.

Several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said they want to see the results of the survey before they offer their final advice on the impact of a repeal to Obama and Gates.

In May, the House of Representatives approved a plan that would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy after the military's internal review is completed and Obama, Gates, and Mullen sign off on the policy change. The Senate, however, has not passed the measure yet.

According to a senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the review process, the military needs until the end of 2010 to figure out how to implement a repeal in terms of housing, medical and marriage benefits, as well as issues involving the reinstatement of gay soldiers previously discharged under the policy.

In addition to distributing the survey, the Pentagon has also been soliciting opinions in a number of private meetings with troops.

The results of the review will not be available until December, the official said.

– CNN's Barbara Starr and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report


Filed under: Department of Defense • Pentagon
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Jeff in Houston

    I'm still trying to understand why we are having a survey. Was there a survey put out to the troops when the military was desegregated? When women were allowed in to certain positions? About surving under an office of a different color?

    Either this is appeasdment to the Bible-Thumpers, or something very odd is going on.

    July 8, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. gt

    the reason is no one in th e service wants homosexuals serving with them but a few on the left wing fringe....drip drip drip drip ... just one value at a time gone..drip.. drip...

    July 8, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Chipster

    Why does the military need until 2010 to determine how to treat people equally and without discrimination. The very idea of a survey that excludes some members of the military and includes others tells us that they simply don't understand constitutional rights. Treat people who are gay, people who are straight, black, white, male, female...all of them as if they are PEOPLE! And we need PEOPLE in the military! This nonsense is costing us dearly so knock it off. It doesn't matter if a survey tells you that some people are prejudiced and ignorant. That's no reason to deny someone the right to serve their country. Don't kick out the person who wants to serve no matter what. Kick out the person who isn't dedicated enough to serve with anyone else who loves their country. This whole thing is just stupid.

    July 8, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. T'SAH from Virginia

    EVERYBODY wants to be an authority on something!!! Do you really believe the military will "kick out" anyone that they can figure out is gay because of a survey?????? LAWSUITS GALORE!!!!

    On another note – there may be more gays in the military than anyone wants to imagine – it could be an entire FRONT fighting for our freedom!!!!! Jeez, like I said, everyone wants an opinion about something just to stir things up!!!

    July 8, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. Real Patriot

    Privacy is an issue, but I think the gay and lesbian service members should still complete the survey. It's a risk, but the benefit is being heard. Their voices need to be heard since the policy currently in place seeks to silence them.

    July 8, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. Tom

    The clueless, anti-military, leftist moron in the White House wants to force members to the United States military to march in so-called "Gay Pride" parades (dressed in drag) at every United States military installation. Obama actually thinks that will improve the military's esprit de corps.

    July 8, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  7. Jim in San Mateo

    This survey is a crock. Does anyone think for one second, that it isn't designed to prevent DADT from being abolished? No independence, no fairness, no oversight; what do you think the survey results are going to say?

    They might as well have asked Chicken LIttle to take the survey.

    July 8, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. JES

    They sould keep don't ask don't tell you know the rules before you enlist.

    July 8, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Frank in valparaiso indiana

    First off, Dod should have contracted out the survey, there are companies that can and do do this sort of thing. Usually management consultants, but some are like Price Waterhouse Cooper. Independent of the military, get the data, keep it inhouse, do the analysis and write a report.

    Statistically, 200k active duty and 200k reserve is overkill. You can get a few percent error with just a few thousand for a nationwide survey.

    I'd like to see who wrote the questions, and what the questions were. Survey writing IS a science and its an established metric, if you know what you're doing.

    no doubt media needs to stay on top of this.

    Though why we need a survey to tell DoD and the military what to do seems a bit squirrely. Issue an order and they do it or resign.

    July 8, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. Augsbee

    Sorry, but I am so sick of this nonsense. These poor people are made to live in secrecy, how ridiculous. Gays, Lesbians are just plain people with the same physical characteristics as everyone else from tall, short, skinny, fat, cute, ugly, etc... Some are nice, fun, some aren't. Personally, I like some gays, lesbians and others I know get under my skin. The ones I know make great parents and are hard workers.

    July 8, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Steve (the real one)

    I don't recall anyone inviting the advocacy group to back anything!

    July 8, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Stacie

    The only change recommended here is that people are allowed to be HONEST! As you can see from the article, there are already gay and lesbian members of our military. They fight next to, eat next to, use the restroom next to and yes, shower next to their straight fellow service members every single day. Asking how someone might feel if they serve next to a gay or lesbian service member is the most idiotic question I've ever heard. They already do!

    By the way, all you homophobic men, the next time you use a public restroom, how do you know the guy standing next to you isn't gay?!?! Gays and lesbians are everywhere...the mall, the restaurant, sports events – yes even NASCAR if you insist on calling it a sport, office buildings, schools, etc....

    You can't tell because he's just not interested in you! Homophobes aren't their type. So relax!

    July 8, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Wert

    What perversion will the Democrats champion next?

    July 8, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  14. JWN

    No need for a survey. Civil rights are due everyone......DADT must go.

    July 8, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. june

    For those crying about left-wing and values: military has been discharging (gay) personnel who could saves the lives of their fellow soldiers and lives here in USA. In particular, 6 highly educated arabic translators! DOD has rooms of untranslated communications, who knows what these contain! Please think critically and set aside ignorance. As usual, we are always behind other countries who have integrated military.

    July 8, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. Wisconsinite - the GObP Loves Big Oil, But Hates Suffering Americans

    Why is there a survey? Was there a survey of the troops when the military was desegregated? Was there a survey of the troops when women were allowed to serve? Since when did the military become a democracy??? They fight to PRESERVE our democracy, but the military is NOT a democracy . . . . big difference.

    July 8, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. Wisconsinite - the GObP Loves Big Oil, But Hates Suffering Americans

    Civil rights are NOT subject to survey results!!!

    July 8, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. get real

    Let's just hope one of the one hundred questions doesn't ask, "are you gay". Based on our current rules, they're not supposed to ask.

    July 8, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. jim

    Who cares???? they're still trying to figure out why Gitmo is sill open.

    July 8, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. wayuphere

    Funny. We have an army post and an air force base right here in good old Fairbanks, Alaska; I've worked on post for years. I've heard everyone from master sergeants to grunts say DADT is dumb because it wouldn't bother them in the least to serve with openly gay or lesbian soldiers.

    Remember, Alaska is a very RED state. We gave you Palin and her Palinbots, Don Young and Lisa Murkowski.

    But our soldiers? They believe in what they've been trained – our constitution and the rights of everyone to be equal.

    July 8, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Steven in Charleston

    The mere existance of this survey is offensive.

    No one should "get a vote" on whether or not another human being is treated with dignity and respect.

    A few items to remember:

    1) Gays and Lesbians are ALREADY serving in the military with distinction. Repealing DADT is simply about acknowledging reality as currently exists;

    2) There was massive resistance to incorporating women and ethnic minorities into the military, but our military both survived and thrived afterwards;

    3) Several other developed nations allow GLBT people to serve openly without falling to pieces, so all the people predicting gloom and doom don't have a leg to stand on; and finally

    4) You can't protect Freedom if you don't practice it yourself.

    July 8, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. NVa Native

    By the way dumb and dumber .... the neo-cons and tea-baggers are sooooo stupid on every level?!
    We have gays in the military legally serving right now, the question is whether they can be fired from service for being honest about who they are.
    How is it possible that people think our service members should be coerced to lie or decieve about who they are so they can serve their country?
    It is un-American!!

    July 8, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |