DADT experts to score Pentagon on "equal and open" service by gay troops

WASHINGTON -- As discussions continue around the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), researchers and academics wonder whether a policy allowing all people to serve regardless of sexual orientation will truly create an open and equal service for gay and lesbian troops.

The Palm Center at UC Santa Barbara released a scorecard and briefing paper today highlighting the key standards it will use to measure whether a repeal of DADT will result in a genuinely equal and open service. The first test of these standards will come on Dec. 1, as the Pentagon’s Working Group on DADT repeal issues its implementation plan. The full document can be viewed online.

The Palm Center paper states that “based on the evidence and data provided by service members, veterans, experts and foreign militaries, the standard of equal and open service in any implementation plan must include three factors: a.) an affirmative non-discrimination policy; b.) one standard of conduct and facilities; and c.) leadership at all levels.”

“As the Senate nears a vote on repeal and the Pentagon Working Group finalizes its report, it is important to have a baseline measure of equal and open service that is clear and firm,” said Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center. “Equal and open service can only make our military better by ensuring that all service members live by the same rules and enjoy the same rights and equal treatment,” continued Belkin.

The Working Group’s implementation plan will serve as the guiding document for the transition to a new policy for gay service members. While additional legal and legislative questions remain in 2010, a constant in this debate continues to be the December 1st deadline under which this report is due to the Secretary of Defense.

“The vote on repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the Senate will be one of the most significant moments for the gay rights movement in American history. Repeal will turn around a ship that has been headed in the wrong direction for seventeen years; this scorecard just makes sure we stay on course,” Belkin concluded.

"A single nondiscrimination standard that applies equally to everyone is vital for both gay and straight troops. Strong leadership, combined with that single standard, is what will make the transition to open service go smoothly," said JD Smith, co-director of Outserve, a network of active-duty gay and lesbian troops. "JD Smith" is a pseudonym, due to Smith's active-duty status.

In its conclusion, the paper notes that “while the role of the Working Group is not to establish ‘equal and open’ service for gay troops specifically, the policies recommended by the Working Group in its implementation plan can only provide equal and open service to gay and lesbian troops if they include an affirmative non-discrimination policy, a single standard of conduct and facilities as well as leadership from all levels. The standard set by President Obama and Admiral Mullen is one of integrity and equality and suggests an appropriate standard that is nothing short of equal and open service for all gay and lesbian troops.”

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