Tags: donnelly | gay | military

Elaine Donnelly: Military Voices Must Be Heard

Monday, 24 Aug 2009 02:41 PM

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Citizens who oppose controversial healthcare reforms are speaking out and being heard. The voices of another group of Americans with personal interests in a major controversy — military men and women who oppose legislation to repeal the 1993 law regarding gays in the military — are not being heard.

The Military Officers Association of America, a large and influential veterans group, has even stifled such voices. In 2008, the association correctly anticipated efforts to repeal the 1993 law regarding homosexuals in the military, which frequently is mislabeled “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The association invited readers of its magazine, Military Officer, to participate in an online opinion survey on gays in the military. The professionally designed survey tabulated the ages and military background of respondents, as well as their answers to three questions about professed gays in the military and attitudes toward homosexuality in general

Survey results did not make news until July, when Washington Times Base News Editor Grace Vuoto reported that they revealed strong support for current policy (16 percent) or an even stronger law excluding homosexuals from the military (52 percent).

The same combined percentage, 68 percent, expressed the belief that repeal of the 1993 law would have a very negative effect (48 percent) or a moderately negative effect (20 percent) on troop morale and military readiness.

Contrary to stereotypes about the views of younger men and women, the survey of 1,664 respondents included a significant number of younger, active duty, or drilling reserve/guard personnel who were largely tolerant of homosexuality in other situations.

Vuoto included in the story a statement from a Military Officers Association of America official expressing concerns about military readiness, but deferring to “senior military leadership” on pending legislation to repeal the 1993 law. A few days later, association officials issued a new statement describing the survey as “statistically invalid” because there were only 500 responses in the first 11 days, and “some non-members” may have passed the survey around to friends in order to “skew results.”

All data was erased from the Web site mentioned in the original Washington Times story, bringing to mind an Andy Rooney aphorism, “To ignore the facts does not change the facts.” The survey was not invalid, but it was inconvenient.

The 1,664 responses to the association's survey, a significant sample, more than tripled the size of the initial 500 who responded in the arbitrarily limited first 11 days. According to the posted demographic data, this larger group included many younger, currently active military people who may have been deployed, and therefore unable to respond right away.

As someone who is not a member of the Military Officers Association of America but who respects the organization’s right to make its own decisions, I was not aware of any outside campaign to “skew” the results — on either side of the issue. Some respondents, including deployed servicemen and women, may have shared the online survey with friends — an option the survey did not preclude.

If this happened, it could be a sign of strong feelings or “intensity” of opinions — information that the best and most accurate polling companies consider valuable in surveying opinions.

A closer look at the survey results over time reveals interesting trends. A copy downloaded on Oct. 21 reported the views of 624 respondents, who were primarily older — 62 percent in the 46-75 age bracket, and only 30 percent under 45 years of age. Forty-six percent were military retirees; only 10 percent were identified as active-duty/drilling reserve or National Guard.

Fast forward to July. By this time, the percentage of association members under the age of 45 who responded had increased to 64 percent, and the percentage of active-duty or reserve/guard military personnel increased five-fold, to 51 percent. Contrary to the usual stereotypes, these younger, closer-to-active duty respondents came down in support of current law and opposed to harmful consequences of repeal by 2-to-1 margins.

Contrary to stereotype, a combined 35 percent of association respondents thought that today’s service members are “much more” or “moderately more” tolerant toward homosexuals in the military, while 45 percent percent said attitudes are “no different” from those who served in the 1980s and earlier.

Active-duty, reserve/guard and/or current military officials rarely have opportunities to express their views on this issue. Even when they do try to be heard — as was the case with annual Military Times polls showing 58 percent of active-duty subscriber/respondents supporting current law, four years in a row — liberal media keep trying to stuff inconvenient opinions down the memory hole.

Instead, news reports keep focusing on uninformed civilian polls, or the multimillion-dollar Gays in the Military Campaign that gay activist groups are coordinating. The traveling road show features the human interest stories of former servicemen who were honorably discharged because of admissions of homosexual conduct. The object is to pass a new law mandating full acceptance of sexual minorities in all military communities, with “zero tolerance” of dissent.

That campaign should not be allowed to drown out the voices of currently serving men and women who understand civilian cultural changes but strongly oppose the radical gay agenda for the military.

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that specializes in military/social issues.

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