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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 5, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 45
Generation gap divides troops on Gays in the military
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Generation gap divides troops on Gays in the military

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

If you want to know what a member of the armed forces thinks about repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), you could start by asking how old they are.

Generational differences appear to play a prominent role in whether soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors are worried about repealing the policy that has barred Gays from serving openly since 1993. Generation may also influence how a change is implemented, if the courts or Congress ultimately lift the ban.

The Pentagon is set to release a comprehensive survey of military-wide views of Gays in the ranks in December after questioning 400,000 servicemembers and 150,000 relatives - an effort ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to determine how to repeal the policy without hurting the military.

Last Thursday, the survey was leaked to the press. NBC News reported on November 28 that the survey found most U.S. troops and their families don't care whether Gays serve openly and think DADT could be done away with.

Details on the findings were still scarce, but in conversations with troops and veterans, the idea repeatedly emerges that younger recruits - who make up a bulk of combat troops in Afghanistan and Iraq - are indifferent, while older ones - including many officers - don't want the ban lifted.

Many veterans of the current wars use terms like 'archaic' and 'old-school' to describe the viewpoint they see from higher-ranking officers and others who support the ban.

Some say that despite the ban, they knew they were serving with Gay soldiers, but the topic was simply not discussed and rarely created a problem.

The survey, according to news reports, found just a small minority of troops that object strongly to the idea of serving with Gays and said that they would quit the military if the policy changed.

Last month brought a flurry of rapid-fire changes to DADT. A Riverside, California federal judge's ruling on October 12 briefly lifted the ban on the open service of Gays, apparently taking the White House and the military by surprise.

Two days later, the Justice Department appealed the ruling, with Obama repeating his position that Congress - not a judge - should change the law.

The next day, the Pentagon put a hold on discharging openly Gay troops, but then changed its mind after an October 20 decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that temporarily kept the ban in place.

Then, on November 1, the Ninth Circuit extended the life of DADT when a court panel, in a 2-1 vote, granted the U.S. government's request for a stay of a district-court injunction that blocked the government from enforcing the policy.

The new stay will last for the duration of the government's appeal.

President Barack Obama promised to end DADT in his 2008 campaign for the White House. Backed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, it looked like the change was in motion in February when Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was time to let Gays serve openly. But momentum slowed, and with court battles raging and Republicans in Congress who strongly oppose repealing the law, the future of Gays in the military is uncertain at best.

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