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DADT Survey Worries Gay Groups 

DADT Survey Worries Gay Groups 


Pro-repeal advocacy groups are expressing deep concern about a survey on "don't ask, don't tell" repeal that the Pentagon sent Wednesday to about 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops.

Although the groups all say they knew the survey was going to be administered and they all requested access to it in advance of its distribution, none of the groups have been allowed to see the survey, which was formulated by the research firm Westat. That aside, they uniformly questioned the basic premise of such an endeavor and added that they did not have significant input into the survey's design and the nature of the questions.

"Our primary concern has always been the need for a survey in the first place," said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign. "To us, it seems anachronistic, demeaning, and not in keeping with the chain of command to ask the service members what they think about integration of gays lesbians into the military."

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, pointed out that the Pentagon has never been in the habit of surveying service members about personnel policies. He noted that President Harry Truman conducted no inquiries before racially integrating the military in 1948, nor were troops consulted in the 1970s when the service academies began accepting women or even as recently as within the past few years when the Navy decided to allow women to serve on submarines.

"In this context, it seems like a an extraordinary strategic engagement and why is it needed now but wasn't needed at other points," Sarvis said.

Though the Pentagon hasn't officially released the full survey to any outside parties, the nature of certain questions as they have been reported has drawn considerable worry.

According to CNN, the questionnaire asks military members how they would react if they had to share a room, bathrooms, and open-bay showers in a war zone with service members believed to be gay or lesbian.

If the reports are correct, Sainz said the tone of the survey appears to be particularly insensitive to gay and lesbian service members. "We believe that if, as reported, questions like that were included, the survey could lead to artificial results," he said. "The questions seem to be biased against gay and lesbian service members. That question presumes that gays and lesbians aren't currently serving -- we know that they are serving and have been for decades."

Alex Nicholson, executive director of the gay veterans group Servicemembers United, said he has been frustrated by the lack of consultation with outside groups by the Pentagon working group studying repeal, particularly on the matter of the survey.

"The working group has been good about staying in touch with us, but they have definitely kept us at arm's length when it came to the Westat survey," he said. "We've been very detached from the process."

Nicholson's group has been doing outreach around the country -- often in rather conservative areas -- engaging straight active-duty soldiers and veterans in dialogue on the topic of repeal. He said all of that information could have benefited the design of the survey.

"We have a deeper than average understanding of what works and the issues that are lightening rods," he said. "They didn't have to take every recommendation we would have given them, but we do have a body of expertise when it comes to this issue that certainly wasn't tapped for the Westat survey."

Nicholson said his group had reached out repeatedly in order to have some input into the process.
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