Research supports openly gay soldiers

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 14 2003 11:00 PM ET

According to top military analysts, there was no adverse impact on combat effectiveness when military forces with conflicting policies on openly gay troops fought together in Iraq. In interviews conducted by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, military experts suggested that when U.S. units, which bar openly gay soldiers for fear of undermining unit cohesion, fought with British units, which allow openly gay soldiers, there were no apparent problems.

Personnel from both armies were exchanged in several instances, according to Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, a vice president at the Potomac Institute. And in preparation for the coalition fighting, the two forces trained together before going into combat. "If you're going to provide combat forces [for each other]," he explained, "you would absolutely want to train together, and generally we do
that." He added that American and British forces "have trained together a great deal, so that relationship is a very easy one to carry into combat."

Glenn Truitt, a former U.S. submarine officer, said it was no surprise to him that American soldiers could work effectively with the gay-friendly British military. He knew of gay soldiers on his command, and he said their professionalism rose to even higher levels than that of straight soldiers. "The homosexual
men I knew in the military were much more professional about their sexuality than the heterosexuals," he said, "if only because they had to be" to gain full acceptance.

Maj. Gen. Bill Nash (Ret.), a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, added that "most of the issues about women and gays take place when the bullets aren't flying. When you're fighting, you've got other things on your mind." He seemed to imply that problems with integrating gays and lesbians
reflected more generalized social concerns, not performance ability. "There are a lot of disciplinary issues that, unless they are directly related to combat performance, are not addressed on the battlefield," he said.

Recently U.S. representative Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) argued that the success of coalition fighting in Iraq is further proof that the American military's antigay policy is unnecessary. "The adherents to the ban have never been able to produce any evidence that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly and honorably would harm the effectiveness of our military," said Meehan, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a leading critic of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. "The Iraq war demonstrates that the morale and cohesion of our forces is simply not affected by the presence of openly gay soldiers."

Twenty four nations, including the United Kingdom, allow gays to serve openly.

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