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Pentagon consults with Brits on impact of lifting DADT

This is going to make the religious fringe and the Freepit go ape. A story in the NYT suggests that a number of unnamed Pentagon officials are talking to the British Defense Ministry about whether there were any problems with integrating openly gay and lesbian servicemembers when the ban was lifted. I’m sure that John McCain thinks those Brit military homos are an intolerable risk, no?

Surprise — there haven’t been any issues, and now there’s handwringing because there’s no fig leaf to hide behind as we consider lifting the ban. (h/t Mike Signorile @ The Gist)

For this article, the Defense Ministry refused to give permission for any member of the forces to be interviewed, either on or off the record. Those who spoke did so before the ministry made its position clear.

  “We’re not looking to have quotes taken out of context in a way to imply that we’re trying to influence the debate in the United States,” the British official said. “There are some sensitivities over the timing of this. We have had communications from our counterparts in the United States, and they have asked us questions about how we’ve handled it and how it’s gone on the ground. There does seem to be some debate going on over how long the current policy will be sustainable.”

Rebecca Sawyer at SLDN’s The Frontlines points to an International Herald Tribune article that also talks about the British military experience with open service since the ban was lifted in 2000.

The article also, inevitably, compares and contrasts the status of gay military personnel in the British and American armed forces.

There was this interesting snippet about one British military officer who served alongside American service members in Iraq:

One major, an openly gay liaison officer in the British Territorial Army, told of an exchange he had in the southern Iraqi city of Basra with an American staff sergeant, far from home and anxious to confide.

“He privately let me know he was gay,” the major said in an interview. “Not in a romantic way, but in a matter-of-fact way. He found it difficult, because he clearly had a whole part of his private life that he had to keep separate and distinct and couldn’t discuss with people. He was in his mid-30s, with no girlfriend and no wife, and he had to use all these white lies.”

More after the flip.Michael Petrelis points out that while there has been a great deal of progress across the pond, there are still homophobic incidents occurring, recorded in a Ministry of Diversity panel briefing paper:

o In a survey I conducted in Summer 04 of LGB staff, nearly two-thirds had directly experienced homophobic abuse at work.
*  This abuse included homophobic joke telling, malicious phone calls at home, use of homophobic language such as queer, dyke or poof, being told by a line manager that being gay was “perverse and disgusting”, pamphlets being left in toilets reminding people that AIDS is the wrath of God against homosexuality and so on.
*  The Steering Committee has requested the Equalities directors from both the Defence Academy and dbLearning to attend the December LGBT Forum to advise on how sexual orientation is covered in MoD diversity training.
*  We will continue to raise the profile of the LGBT Forum in order to generate a more inclusive culture within the MoD.

The point is, opening up the military for gays and lesbians to openly serve isn’t going to eliminate prejudice, any more than integrating the armed forces after WWII saw an end to racism.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding