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News: World

Thu 3 Jun, 2010
By Sam Bristowe

Lifting of the homosexual ban in the Australian Defense Forces was a bit like the Y2K issue

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Allies inform US military repeal of gay ban won't affect

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US allies with openly gay soldiers, including some fighting alongside American troops, are providing growing evidence that allowing such service would have little to no effect on US military cohesion, a new study has shown.

Since 1993 the United States has implemented a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy requiring gays to hide their sexual orientation from their superiors and fellow soldiers, but it is currently under broad review and US legislators have taken key recent steps to getting it repealed.

Twenty-five nations that have transitioned to open service since 1993 insist that lifting such a ban did not lead to the fallout similar to that which critics of a possible US open service have warned about, according to a study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington thinktank that gathered representatives from the militaries in a forum addressing the issue.

"It's striking that you have an almost universal experience across this 25," including countries whose troops are "still out there with the United States in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," co-author Peter Singer, director of the institute's 21st Century Defense Initiative, told AFP on Wednesday.

Singer cited data from the study that showed a lack of a rise in sexual aggression, violence or harassment, no measurable flight from the military, and manageable privacy issues.

"Lifting of the homosexual ban in the Australian Defense Forces was a bit like the Y2K issue," retired ADF Major General Simon Willis said, referring to the heavily overhyped but largely harmless millennium bug that some people feared would send computer systems crashing on January 1, 2000.

Despite considerable bluster and high-pitched debate about opening the ADF, "it was a non-event and it continues to be a non-event in Australia," said Willis, a Vietnam War veteran.

The study found that unit cohesion -- a primary concern voiced by top US military officer Admiral Michael Mullen as he seeks the military's views from the ground level before he begins to implement the law's repeal -- did not suffer when gays began serving openly.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has offered reluctant support for a White House-backed deal in Congress to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell," but has urged lawmakers to hold off on any new legislation until the Pentagon completes its review and crafts a strategy for addressing such worries.

Source: AFP


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