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Summit announced on Gay service in foreign militaries
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Summit announced on Gay service in foreign militaries

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has been a leader in commissioning and disseminating research in the areas of gender, sexuality and the military, has announced plans to convene a Washington, D.C. summit of officials and experts from military forces which allow Gay men and Lesbian women to serve openly - including the Israel Defense Force and NATO member militaries.

The summit, planned for early spring, will focus on the implementation of personnel policies for openly Gay servicemembers. According to the Palm Center, British and Israeli experts have confirmed their participation.

"As military and political leaders anticipate the end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [DADT], the lessons from the 25 foreign forces that allow open Gay service are instructive," stated Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center.

Belkin says there are three questions that generally dominate the comparison: Did the decision to allow open Gay servicemembers undermine military readiness? How was implementation managed? To what extent can lessons from abroad help U.S. officials plan for an inclusive policy? Those questions and more, Belkin says, should be answered at the summit.

During his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his campaign pledge to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Since then, military leaders have scrambled to present the president with an acceptable plan for implementation, while DADT foes in the Congress and Senate have lobbied for a repeal.

In 1993, the Government Accountability Office submitted a report to Congress regarding Gays and Lesbians in foreign militaries. It assessed the impact of open Gay service in military readiness, finding that "Military officials in all four countries said that the presence of homosexuals in the military is not an issue and has not created problems in the functioning units."

A 1993 report by the RAND Corporation reached a similar conclusion.

Last week, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on DADT, Maine Senator Susan Collins asked if any NATO partners had reported difficulties since their implementation of open service. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had spoken to many NATO allies and they reported "no impact" on military performance.

Palm Center scholars have published several journal articles and book chapters on Gays and Lesbians in the Israeli, British, Canadian and Australian forces.

Next week, the Center is set to release a new, 150-page study on the status of Gays and Lesbians in foreign military forces around the world. The study will include the first ever in-depth analysis of Gays and Lesbians in the South African Defense Force, which dropped its ban in 1998.

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