A new study released this week reveals that openly gay service personnel who served in multinational units with American forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other joint operations: did not undermine unit cohesion, were accepted by U.S. soldiers they served with on a daily basis, and promoted the successful accomplishment of their units’ missions.
The study was undertaken by The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities (CSSMM) in the Military is an official research unit of the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.
The central rationale for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military is that allowing openly gay personnel to serve will undermine unit cohesion in our Armed Forces. The study poses serious implications for this driving purpose behind this controversial U.S. defence policy.
“We found through academic investigation and analysis that the presence of acknowledged gay service members clearly has not compromised unit cohesion or operational effectiveness among U.S. military personnel,” said Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of CSSMM and a professor at UC Santa Barbara.
“In fact, all of our evidence comes from situations where the U.S. military ordered American units to serve with these openly gay allied soldiers and officers in multinational units, such as those recently deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The study’s authors – CSSMM Assistant Director Geoffrey Bateman and Dr. Sameera Dalvi of the University of Southampton (UK) – found through documented case studies that American personnel are able to interact with and work successfully with acknowledged gay personnel from foreign militaries, including close allies in recent conflicts like the British military. When occasional conflicts do arise, the study found, they tend to be minor and are resolved successfully in an informal manner.
“The Pentagon would presumably defend every instance where they have assigned American soldiers to serve with openly gay allied soldiers and officers, particularly in Iraq,” Dr. Belkin said.
“Therefore, this study’s conclusions raise serious questions about the soundness of the rationale behind “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” particularly when most of our leading military allies around the world, particularly Britain and Australia, have integrated openly gay personnel into every branch of their armed forces.”
On an institutional level, the study also finds that neither NATO nor the United Nations has addressed the coordination of divergent policies concerning sexual orientation in an official manner, largely because these organizations are preoccupied with more pressing concerns, and because openly homosexual personnel are not seen as sources of tension – not even for U.S. personnel serving with them.
Among the several case studies featured is that of Lieutenant Rolf Kurth of the Royal Navy, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom along with numerous U.S. sailors on board ships deployed in the Persian Gulf. Kurth reported that he was open about his sexual orientation, which is sanctioned in the British military, and that he was “the direct link” on day-to-day work matters between a team of American sailors and British sailors on board a RN ship. Kurth reports in the study that unit cohesion was solid and unaffected, and he was completely accepted by the Americans he served with.
The report states: Kurth spoke in positive terms about his interaction with the US officers in the team: “The working relationship with them was great, and I got along very well with them,” he said. When asked if these officers reacted towards him differently from his British colleagues, he responded, “No, they didn’t behave any differently than British colleagues. They were very friendly.”
[Lt. Kurth joined the Royal Navy in 1990 and served until 1997 when he was discharged for being gay. After nearly four years in civilian life, Kurth was invited to rejoin the navy after the British government lifted its gay ban to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.]
Lt. Commander Craig Jones also of the of the Royal Navy as were gay forces personnel from Australia, Canada and the Netherlands joined Dr. Belkin in a two-part CSSMM academic seminar in Washington, D.C., where the report was released on Monday.
The seminar included a discussion at the National Press Club and a luncheon briefing for Congressional and Bush Administration staff on Capitol Hill. Lt. Commander Jones is also featured in a case study included in the report, and is currently Vice-Chair of the UK Armed Forces Gay and Lesbian Association.