Last year I released a report documenting 60 claims that anti-gay voices made about problems that would result if DADT were to end. The report was designed as a "provisional framework" for evaluating the policy change, and as an invitation to these conservatives, who generally profess to care deeply about taking responsibility for one's actions, to hold themselves accountable for their predictions when facts ultimately emerged about the reality -- instead of the fantasy -- of openly gay service. I announced that, this year, I would co-author a major study to assess the outcome of the policy change, a study that could be used to measure the validity of these anti-gay predictions.
That study, co-authored by faculty from West Point, the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, and the Marine Corps War College, was released last week. It found that repeal "has had no negative impact on overall military readiness or its component parts: unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale."
Today, on the one-year anniversary of repeal, it is crucial to look back at who said what about DADT repeal, and how it stacks up against empirical reality. After all, if prominent voices can impugn the lives and contributions of LGBT servicemembers without accountability, it creates a safe space for anti-gay voices to continue to abuse research to oppose same-sex marriage, LGBT parenting, and other forms of equality, including the unfinished work in the military of achieving equality for same-sex couples and transgender troops.
I've called these predictions of doom and gloom in the military "anti-gay." Am I being sloppy or needlessly harsh? Couldn't people have made good-faith predictions about the impact of openly gay service without necessarily being anti-gay?
They could have. And in my study of this issue over the years, I've certainly known some. But research shows that people with emotional biases against a group are prone to exaggerate the threats posed by that group. We now know that's just what's happening here. At a certain point, which I'd say we reached on DADT five to 10 years ago, enough data points emerge, a tipping point that's not just trend-based but information-based, that it becomes impossible to deny the obvious -- if you're being rational.
The longstanding pattern of claiming that LGBT equality will disrupt our major institutions and even weaken our civilization is what I've called the "great disruption theory." It's the argument people used for decades to oppose equal treatment for black, female, and LGBT Americans, both in and out of uniform. And it's still being used to block gay people from access to marriage, to maintain restrictions on transgender military service, and to oppose equal treatment for a whole host of others, including, most notably, immigrants.
That's why it's critical to pause, as we celebrate the progress of this milestone, to also absorb the historical lesson provided by the empirical finding that equality for gay people doesn't wreak havoc on our country. Opponents of equality will always claim it disrupts society, but the claim is a ruse meant to maintain a social hierarchy with no rational justification.
True courage -- the kind shown by our troops on the front lines -- now requires the naysayers to acknowledge their wayward path, and for those who continue to falsely insist that equality is harmful to society (rather than just a threat to their own status) to cease and desist. Where are their voices now?
Below is a brief summary of both the most dire predictions and the recent findings.
Predictions of Harm (Excerpts):
- "[Lifting the ban] may even prove decisive to the viability of the all-volunteer force. That viability may, in turn, determine our ability to avoid in the years ahead -- as we have for the past four decades -- a return to conscription to meet our requirements for warriors in those conflicts" (Frank Gaffney, Jr., Center for Security Policy, 2011).
Summary of Findings of "One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal's Impact on Military Readiness," September 2012:
- The repeal of DADT has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment, or morale.