We were skeptical in February when Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates commissioned a study on how a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy would be implemented. Our chief concern was that putting the issue to a vote, as the study seemed to do, would obscure the fact that simple justice required repeal. We also worried that the study's outcome might provide a pretext for congressional opposition to allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly.
This week the Pentagon released its report, complete with the results of more than 100,000 surveys turned in by service members and their families. Though we continue to believe that "don't ask, don't tell" should have been abolished before any surveys were taken, the results are heartening. More important, they may persuade some senators to end their equivocation and join the House in supporting repeal.
The most striking finding of the report is that 70% of service members said the effect of repealing the policy would be "equally mixed, positive or nonexistent." Members serving in combat, particularly Marines, were less sanguine, but overall the numbers support the report's conclusion that "the risk of repeal of don't ask, don't tell to overall military effectiveness is low."