Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Asking and Telling About Serving

Two recent polls have shown strong public support for open service by LGBT Americans in the military.

Currently, almost 14,000 qualified men and women have been discharged from the military under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy (DADT), which only allows LGBT folks to serve if they conceal their sexual orientation. Many thousands more have chosen to not re-enlist because of the policy. Enforcing and implementing this policy has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and our armed service has suffered from the additional stress placed on its LGBT servicemembers and their families.

The American public does not support this discrimination, however, and wants it to change.

Even here in North Carolina, with its long Southern history of social conservatism, most people believe gay people should be able to serve openly in the armed services, like they do in Israel, England, Canada, and our other allied countries.

Public Policy Polling released this information a couple of weeks ago:

"We've seen a lot of national polling recently showing support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military but we wondered: Would that hold true even in a military heavy, historically conservative southern state like North Carolina?"

"The answer is yes. 50% of North Carolinians support repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' compared to 40% who are opposed to it. Most notably 59% of independents favor letting gays serve openly even as they simultaneously express majority disapproval of Barack Obama. This is not nearly the party line issue that something like health care is - while just 5% of Republicans support the President's agenda on that 26% of them are for scrapping DADT."

"Public opinion on gays in the military reflects the growing progressivism of North Carolina's population. Rural voters are strongly opposed to it but their proportion of the electorate is declining while suburbia's share rises, and suburban voters strongly favor allowing gays to serve openly. Republicans will probably have a good year in the state this time around but that doesn't change the fact that the state is moving gradually away from some of its more conservative attitudes."

Full results here."

Similarly, the Center for American Progress' recent poll supports these data:

"A majority of American voters support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the U.S. military’s policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces.

The poll is the most extensive of a number of recent surveys tracking public opinions on this issue and undeniably shows that the American public has become increasingly supportive of open service. Voters recognize as our country fights two different wars that it is critical for the military to make recruiting decisions based on a soldier’s skills—not his or her sexual orientation. This finding is echoed by other polls on the issue conducted over the past year.

Key findings

Stable majority for change graph

CAP’s poll, fielded by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research, finds that a solid majority of likely voters support allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military: 54 percent of those surveyed support repealing the current ban on open service, with just 35 percent opposed to repeal. These numbers demonstrate a massive change in public opinion on this issue since 1994, when polls showed that majorities of Americans opposed gay men and lesbians serving in the military.

The poll also shows that:

  • Voters value skills over sexual orientation: Sixty percent believe that with the United States in the middle of two wars, the military needs every talented woman and man it can get regardless of a person’s sexual orientation. Similar numbers say that they do not think gays and lesbians will harm unit cohesion or morale.
  • DADT repeal is not a politically polarizing issue: Among likely voters, 68 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents, and 41 percent of Republicans support repeal. What’s more, 56 percent of voters in House of Representatives battleground districts and 56 percent in Senate battleground states support repeal.
  • Voters do not want to defer to the military on DADT: A clear majority—63 percent—would not change their opinion on DADT repeal even if the U.S. military was opposed to open service by gays and lesbians.
  • Voters are becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians overall: Nearly 30 percent said that they have become more accepting of gays and lesbians in the past 5 to 10 years. Only 11 percent became less accepting.
Download this memo (pdf)"

America is engaged in two wars, and the public believes it's time to repeal DADT and make military service contingent on abilities, not bigotry.

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