Click here, to read the full manuscript as published in "Armed Forces and Society."
U.S. policy banning openly gay and lesbian personnel from serving in its military rests on the belief that heterosexual discomfort with lesbian and gay service members in an integrated environment would degrade unit cohesion and readiness. To inform this policy, data from a 2006 survey of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were analyzed in this study. Views of these war veterans were consistent with prior surveys of military personnel showing declining support for the policy: from about 75 percent in 1993 to 40 percent in this survey. Among the demographic and military experience variables analyzed, comfort level with lesbian and gay people was the strongest correlate of attitudes toward the ban. War veterans indicated that the strongest argument against the ban is that sexual orientation is unrelated to job performance, and that the strongest argument in favor of the ban is a projected negative impact on unit cohesion. However, analyses of these war veterans’ ratings of unit cohesion and readiness revealed that knowing a gay or lesbian unit member was not associated uniquely with cohesion or readiness; instead, the quality of leaders, equipment, and training were the critical factors associated with unit cohesion and readiness.
This paper was first published by the Palm Center in July, 2009.