NOTE FROM PAM: The reaction from Servicemembers United…
Politico has posted a copy of the survey about “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” the Department of Defense is sending out to 150,000 (opposite-sex) spouses of servicemembers.
To be fair, promising reports broke Wednesday that a Pentagon spokes person called speaking to same-sex spouses a “high priority” for the working group. But upon closer examination, as with the original survey of troops, it does seem little thought was actually given to how to get around the problems inherent to DADT legislation.
Regardless, the survey indicates that the Pentagon Working Group learned little from the previous uproar and repeats many of the same errors. After the fold some select questions and commentary.
Granted this process was flawed from the start, both from a political and policy point.
Politically, slow walking any change is death. We saw how the GOP managed to turn the August break last year into “death panel”-palooza. As a strategy, slow-walking the repeal process may please the Pentagon, but it pleases no one else. Repeal advocates are frustrated and have hardly been quietier than they were when they were chaining themselves to the White House fence.
The discharge of Lt. Dan Choi and impending discharge of Lt Col. Victor Fahrenbach continue to make bad news for the administration. (See, July 10, 2010: Obama can't shake gay-rights fights). Fahrenbach's Hail Mary pass to save his career almost certainly will soon culminate in the Obama Justice Department marching into court to argue they can fire gay people just because they feel like it. We can argue whether they can do anything else, but it will be nails on a chalkboard for every LGBT American invested in being treated free of discrimination.
Meanwhile, the opposition still finds itself in a position to rally their own troops, creating their own distracting headlines and keeping the culture war alive.
And it isn't a strategy based on good policy. The Palm Center's report on 25 allied nations methods of addressing this issue found:
“All the countries studied completed their implementations of repeal either immediately or within four months of the government’s decision to end discrimination. These experiences confirm research findings which show that a quick, simple implementation process is instrumental in ensuring success. Swift, decisive implementation signals the support of top leadership and confidence that the process will go smoothly, while a “phased-in” implementation can create anxiety, confusion, and obstructionism.”
“Anxiety, confusion and obstructionism?” Sound familiar? Here's the latest round.
The letter that accompanied the survey:
8. Has your spouse ever worked on a daily basis with an individual he or she believed to be a homosexual Service member?
I just find this just so ridiculously over-dramatic.
11. If Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed, the military will want to prepare and assist spouses in understanding the new policy. How would you like the military to provide you with information on the new policy? MARK ALL THAT APPLY
• No special activities or communications would be necessary
• Distribute printed information to spouses about repeal
• Provide information about repeal on military Web sites
• Have interactive chats available on line to answer questions from Service member spouses
• Provide information through military chaplains trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Provide information through military counselors trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Provide information through Family Readiness Group/Work-Life Program leaders trained to work with spouses and family members on repeal
• Offer courses to spouses on how to discuss repeal within their families.
• Other, please specify: ______
How much is there to explain? Daddy or mommy's co-worker isn't getting kicked out anymore.
I mean, courses? Courses? They're going to make a whole curriculum on this issue? Will it be accredited? Can you get your BA in “Mommy works with a Homo?” So the whole family can go in an learn how to tell little Bobby, “Ok, you know that girl Michelle that Daddy works with? At the end of the day, when she's done filling artillery shells, she goes home to a woman, not a man. She always did, but now the Army has decided that it's ok for her to say it out loud. So, we just want you to be prepared that Daddy's friend at work may say she's a “lesbian” sometime over the course of her workday with daddy. Do you know what a lesbian is?”
It's just absurd to me.
16. 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?
• Very important
• Neither important nor unimportant
• Very unimportant
• Don't Know
19. Would a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell affect your willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend?
• Yes, I would be more likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• Yes, I would be less likely to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• No, it would not affect my willingness to recommend military service to a family member or close friend
• Don't know
I seriously wonder, why bother asking this question? Can anything useful be gleaned from whether the spouses would recommend service? Of all the factors that influence the military's ability to recruit–compensation, safety, VA benefits, college tuition, economic climate, current military mission–does anyone imagine spouses attitudes about DADT could possibly have a measurable impact?
24. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed and you live on-base housing. If a gay or lesbian Service member lived in your neighborhood with their partner, would you stay on-base or try to move out?
• I would stay on-base
• I would try to move out
• Don't Know
• Does not apply, I would not live on-base
25. While living on-base, which of the following would you do?
• I would make a special effort to get to know the gay or lesbian Service member
• I would get to know them like any other neighbor
• I would generally avoid them when I could
• I would do nothing
• I would do something else, please specify ______
• Don't know
These are the sorts of questions many heterosexuals may never understand why the very premise is so offensive. The very framing of “like” any other neighbor. Which of course they are not, they're gay, they're gay, they're gay! OMG! They're gay!
All my neighbors in my Brooklyn apartment building live daily with a gay neighbor (actually, several). I doubt they queried the landlord how many known homosexuals lived in the building before they signed their lease.
And life goes on. They water my plants when I'm out of town, and I'll move their clothes into the dryer if they ask me to and hand me the quarters.
The military taking time to survey such a thing is a validation of the viewpoint that objecting to living near a homosexual is somehow rational, somehow a viewpoint that should be considered. As Servicemeber's United's Alex Nicholson said of the last survey, “it is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations going out about any other minority group in the military.”
The survey also hints that the DOD may shape their obligations to LGB servicemembers' spouses and partners around this popular vote. We see hints of this in the following questions.
27. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. Would attendance of a gay or lesbian Service member with his or her partner affect how often you attend these types of military social events?
• Yes, I would attend these types of military social events more often
• Yes, I would attend these types of military social events less often
• No, it would not affect my attendance at these types of military social events
• Don't know
29. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed and your spouse is deployed. Would the presence of a partner of a gay or lesbian Service member affect how often you attend deployment-support activities?
• Yes, I would attend deployment-support activities more often
• Yes, I would attend deployment-support activities less often
• No, it would not affect my attendance at deployment-support activities
• Don't know
Will the answer to these questions determine whether LGB servicemembers' spouses are included or excluded from company events or support services?
Granted how the military goes forward on the issue of LGB partners is far from clear. DOMA prevents them from legally recognizing spouses, at least monetarily. They won't be given pensions, health insurance, placed in military housing. (Unless the military tried to use their time-honor deference from the Constitution to argue that DOMA–like freedom of speech and expression–does not apply to them. Hmmmm….? Pipe dream.)
But regardless, the topic has been put on the table. And even if the military stands up, does the right thing and implements a policy of inclusion, you've handed fuel to opponents. They will always be able to say, “But they asked our opinion and defied our will!” They will claim survey bias and victimhood at the gay agenda that brought in a fix. The issue will live for years.
We are no longer arguing this issue from a point of principle, on doing what is right. (Which was actually the powerful bottom line that resonated in Admiral Mike Mullen's testimony before the Senate:
“I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
No, this survey process moves the whole debate over to “what the people want,” territory, “what's the consensus?” We're seeking common ground. And, realistically, political cover, but for what conclusion?
Family Readiness is defined as to how prepared military families are to handle the challenges of military life.
32. Assume Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. Would repeal affect your family readiness?
• Yes, it would improve my family readiness
• Yes, it would reduce my family readiness
• No, it would have no effect on my family readiness
• Don't know
I just find this question laughable in its vagueness and lack of meaning.
And of course, it's sad a major civil right battle will be waged, possibly won or lost by whether someone's opinion of how it affects their “family readiness,” whatever that means.
I wish our Commander in Chief would listen to the Commander in Chief of January 2010:
“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”
I'm sorry. You don't get to claim the principled high ground in a televised speech for applause of a nation and then walk it back by following up and asking 550,000 other people “What do you think is the right thing to do? And you? And you? And you?”
Just do the right thing. Lead.
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