September 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Another Pentagon exercise in homophobia

I spent the last few days trying to decide what to write about this week and asked a number of friends for suggestions. They came up with some good ideas. One of the best was to look at why gay people, when disagreeing with another gay person’s opinion, will spend more time attacking the person than disputing the opinion. Too often when a gay writer pens a column or blog criticizing a politician or an organization the rebuttal doesn’t defend the organization or the politician but rather tears down the writer.

I will spend some time researching that idea in the future, but in the meantime the idea for this column fell into my lap over coffee at the Java House. The person next to me started laughing out loud and shared a newspaper story on the Pentagon sending out a survey to spouses of service members regarding the potential repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I read it and wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. In the survey the Pentagon wants to know whether spouses would urge their husbands or wives to leave the military if it repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and how they might behave at social functions if an openly gay couple attends.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. The Defense Department is really asking such questions of about 150,000 military spouses who started receiving copies of the 44-question survey on Aug. 19. They have until Sept. 27 to complete and return it.

I would ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who sent a letter with the survey, to substitute the words “African American” or “woman” for “gay.” Would he send such a survey targeting those groups? Gates emphasizes that the survey is confidential, so respondents can be candid. I interpret that to mean respondents can let their bigotry hang out with impunity.

The survey goes on to ask whether you think your spouse has ever worked with a service member they believe to be gay and how well they knew the individual. Maybe they mean one of those guys that did the Lady Gaga parody video in Iraq last year.

Other brilliant questions include: “How important a factor would a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ be to you in making decisions about your spouse’s future in the military?”

“Would a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ affect your willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend?”

“Assume Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you live in on-base housing. If a gay or lesbian service member lived in your neighborhood with their partner, would you stay on-base or would you try to move out?”

“Would the attendance of a gay or lesbian Service member with his or her partner affect how often you attend these types of military social events?”

In conclusion, Gates says, “This survey will help the military leadership assess the impacts, if any, a change in the law commonly known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ might have on family readiness and military community life.” Ah those community showers!

This is where we are in the Obama administration: sending surveys to spouses wanting to know how bigoted, or not, they are. We really need to get this administration and our nation to move beyond this kind of thing. We have polls clearly stating that more than three-quarters of Americans, including Bill O’Reilly, think we should repeal DADT. I thought that we had a military that was run by civilians. Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t the military taught to take orders? Did we send out a survey asking, “If we send your husband, wife, son or daughter to Iraq/Afghanistan will it make you less likely to recommend joining the military to another family member or close friend?”

We have come a long way in my lifetime in dealing with homosexuality and even moved to civil marriage equality in some states. We have rulings from federal judges that say both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are unconstitutional. But the military and some of its leaders are wasting time taking polls of service members’ spouses to gauge their homophobia.

  • customartist

    THE VERY ACT of the government taking surveys relative to Gays, and NOT having taken surveys for any other group, In And Of Itself is an act of Prejudice, it Perpetuates Inequality, it offers to Acknowledge Bigotry, and is wholly Un-Constitutional. There is NO PRECEDENT.

    Why aren’t FACTS used to evaluate the presence of Gays in the Military, meaning Real Factual Data such as the plethora of other countries which currently have Gays serving openly, rather than “feelings” i.e. “How would it make you feel if …?” When ever has the Military asked Service Members, OR moreover Military Spouses how something would ‘make them feel?”?
    And yes, as Mr. Rosenstein writes, It is the Federal Government that is in charge of the Military, not the other way around. We do not have a Military State. The Military does not tell the Government, nor the Citizens what to do. But to the contrary, the Government Tells The Military what to do,…so therefore, even if this ‘survey’ was written or originated within the Military, it is the Government that is Ultimatley Responsible for this exercize. This Survey is as equally Un-Constitutional as is DOMA, and DADT. Neither the Legislature, nor the Executive Branch can legally make nor execute Laws or Actions which are against the US Constitution. Gays should sue not only for corrective measures, but for repairations as well.

  • Sam B.

    There is no excuse for this.

    One of the many things that is so impressive about the fine men and women who defend democracy is the fact that they volunteer to give up many of their own personal liberties temporarily while serving. This is necessary, since people need to be highly organized and take orders so that freedom can be defended in military conflict, or the readiness to defend it may prevent conflict. They can’t choose their assignments, can’t quit, often can’t decide where or how to live, etc. Similarly, military spouses generally understand this sacrifice of personal choices is for the greater good.

    So WHY do Pentagon officials suddenly decide to ask them, “oh, how do you feel about our policy choices on gays?” The only possible answer is that those asking the questions are fairly confident of the outcome. This “study” is being conducted by people who have results in mind that are pre-judged, which is the root word of “prejudice”.


    • Jerry

      Actually Sam, they aren’t confident. The initial survey only garnered a 25% response and that was after those getting the survey questionnaire were repeatedly badgered to respond. This survey is getting the same poor response so it is also time for the Army to step up. And they have but their survey is online. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can figure out that the potential for discovery will discourage any gay service members to not take the survey. If they do enough polls they will eventually hit one that gives them the results they want. The big drug companies do the same thing. There has to be a drug test that gives positive results and masks the side affects so that’s the one that the FDA sees. The military is hoping to do the same thing in hopes of scaring Congress into inaction.

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