October 20, 2010

Federal Court Rejects Pentagon Assertion That Gay Ban’s Suspension Harms Military

Judge Finds Evidence of Negative Consequences “Vague” And “Unpersuasive”

SANTA BARBARA, CA  – Judge Virginia Phillips ruled yesterday that the Pentagon’s assertion that suspending “don’t ask, don’t tell” has harmed the military is “conclusory and unpersuasive.”  After Judge Phillips suspended the ban last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the suspension would have “enormous consequences for the troops,” and Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley made the same point in a lengthy court filing.  Judge Phillips rejected those assertions yesterday when she explained why she would not revoke the suspension.

According to Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin, “The court ruled that it is not enough for the Pentagon to simply assert that inclusive policy harms the military.  They have to show it.  But they have no evidence to back up their case.”  Last week, the Palm Center established a new web site, www.enormousconsequences.com, to serve as a hub for reporting all negative effects of the suspension of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Palm also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation of such effects.  As the suspension reaches the 200 hour mark, Palm scholars have not been able to identify any problems with regard to unit cohesion, discipline, privacy or other matters.

Judge Phillips made two points about the government’s assertion of negative consequences that follow from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.  On one hand, she said that the government had an opportunity to present evidence at trial to show that inclusive policy would harm the military, or that discrimination improves it, but declined to do so: “Defendants had an opportunity to, but did not, present any of the evidence or arguments now advanced before the injunction issued…they provided no evidence regarding the alleged disruption…”

On the other hand, she said that the government’s new assertions of negative consequences are not compelling: “Furthermore, to the extent Defendants now submit evidence in the form of the Stanley Declaration, that evidence is conclusory and unpersuasive.”  At another point, she referred to the new assertions of negative consequences as “vague.”  To the contrary, Judge Phillips said that evidence presented at trial shows that “don’t ask, don’t tell” undermines the military: “the evidence at trial showed that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act harms military readiness and unit cohesion.”

Yesterday, the Palm Center issued an analysis of five myths that Pentagon spokesperson have embraced, and that undermine their assertion of negative consequences following from allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.  That analysis is posted here.