(Santa Barbara, California) Three-out-of-four members of the military who are serving in Iraq or recently returned home say they don’t care if someone in their unit is gay according to a poll released Tuesday by Zogby International.
They also said that if the military allowed gays to server openly it would have had no effect on their decision to enlist.
Zogby polled 545 troops between Oct. 24 and 26 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The survey was designed in conjunction with the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
The poll also found that nearly one in four U.S. troops say they know for sure that someone in their unit is gay or lesbian, and of those 59% said they learned about the person’s sexual orientation directly from the individual.
More than half of the troops who know a gay peer said the presence of gays or lesbians in their unit is well known by others despite the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bars gays from acknowledging publicly that they are gay.
Of those who said they do not know or suspect anyone in their unit of being gay nearly half said they would not care if they discovered a fellow trooper were homosexual.
“Today’s poll is one more nail in the coffin of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“Those who defend the law have argued that openly gay personnel harm military readiness. This research highlights the absurdity of such a hypothesis. Not only are there more than 65,000 lesbians and gays serving in the armed forces, but many are serving openly. Their straight colleagues are just fine with that At a time when our fighting forces are stretched thin and leaders are calling for the recruitment of more troops, it is time for Congress to do away with this archaic law.”
Since the ban on gays serving openly was implemented a decade ago more than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” according to the Government Accountability Office.
The number of gays and lesbians who have attempted to enlist and rejected because they said they were gay is not known.
A study conducted last year for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network concluded that the U.S. military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits if gays and lesbians in the military were able to be open about their sexual orientation.
Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) will re-introduce The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow gays to serve openly, when Congress reconvenes in 2007.
The bill died at the end of the last Congress after the Republican leadership tied it up in committee.
“These new data prove that thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers are already deployed overseas and are integrated, important members of their units. It is long past time to strike down “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and create a new policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve openly,” Meehan said on Tuesday.
The Zogby poll is the latest in a series of polls and public statements indicating readiness for a chance in policy. A 2004 Annenberg poll found that a majority of junior enlisted personnel favor allowing gays to serve openly, up from 13% in other polls from 1993.
Among the general public, Gallup has found 79 percent support for repealing the gay ban. A recent Boston Globe poll also found that a majority of conservatives and regular church-goers favor repeal.