Unfriendly Fire Research Portal

3. What are the Lessons Learned from Foreign Militaries and Other Institutions about How to Implement Repeal?

The research on the experiences of foreign militaries that allow openly gay service is extensive, and comes from allied and U.S. government sources, as well as data from academic, independent, journalistic and official military studies. While every nation and each military are unique, the U.S. military has a long history of studying and learning from the lessons of other countries, and in 1986 set up the Foreign Military Studies Office to learn about doctrine, tactics, weapons technologies, strategy, and personnel issues. Although some dismiss the relevance of foreign militaries to the American debate over gay service, many of those same voices previously pointed to allies that did not allow gay service as models for the U.S., especially Britain, which then lifted its ban in 2000. Some of the research cited below includes sections on the relevance and limits of that relevance of the experiences of foreign militaries to the American debate. Analagous domestic institutions are also included, such as fire departments, and the history of racial integration. As with any public policy debate, the relevant question is not whether new policy should be implemented simply because another nation or institution has done so; but rather, which factors are instructive as we assess the costs and benefits of a policy change in the U.S.

List of Palm Center publications on gays in foreign militaries

This one-sheet of Palm Center publications is a convenient way to access Palm's ten major studies on gays in foreign militaries.

Chapter 6 of Unfriendly Fire

Here you can view Chapter 6 of Unfriendly Fire, a summary of the latest research to date of gays in foreign militaries.

Palm Center Study, "Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer"

"Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer" is one of the largest ever studies of gays in foreign militaries. To view just the executive summary of that report, click here.

Brookings Institution Conference on gays in foreign militaries held in 2010," Lessons Learned from the Service of Gays and Lesbians in Allied Militaries"

Click here for a 2-page executive summary of the foreign militaries conference co-sponsored by Palm Center held at the Brookings Institution in 2010. For a full transcript, click here

Center for American Progress 2010 report on the experiences of foreign militaries with openly gay service, "Implementing the Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the U.S. Armed Forces,"

Click here for the report, which includes information about how other nations handle benefits, housing and related issues.

2010 report by researchers at Columbia University Law School, "Open Service and Our Allies: A Report on the Inclusion of Openly Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers in U.S. Allies' Armed Forces,"

Click here for the report.

Palm Center study of the San Diego Police Department, “Pink and Blue: Outcomes Associated with the Integration of Open Gay and Lesbian Personnel in the San Diego Police Department”

The report shows that nondiscrimination policies in police and fire departments did not impair effectiveness even though many departments were characterized as highly homophobic.

U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, “Perspectives on Organizational Change in the Canadian Forces”

The report concludes that “Negative consequences predicted in the areas of recruitment, employment, attrition, retention, and cohesion and morale have not occurred since the policy was changed.”

RAND study, “Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessments”

In 1993, RAND researchers completed a study commissioned by Defense Secretary Les Aspin. Prepared by over 70 social scientists based on evidence from six countries and data analyses from hundreds of studies of cohesion, found that “none of the militaries studied for this report believe their effectiveness as an organization has been impaired or reduced as a result of the inclusion of homosexuals.” In Canada, where the ban had just ended, RAND found “no resignations (despite previous threats to quit), no problems with recruitment, and no diminution of cohesion, morale, or organizational effectiveness.” The same conclusions were reached about Israel. The study reported that even in those countries where gays were allowed to serve, “in none of these societies is homosexuality widely accepted by a majority of the population.” RAND recommended a policy in which sexual orientation alone was considered “not germane” in determining who should serve.

Part of the RAND study examined police and fire departments in several U.S. cities, which it regarded as “the closest possible domestic analog” to the military setting. RAND found that the integration of open gays and lesbians—the status of most departments in the United States—actually enhanced cohesion and improved the police department’s community standing and organizational effectiveness. It also showed that social tolerance is not necessary to successful openly gay service, as the transition went smoothly even in departments characterized by high levels of homophobia.

RAND also assessed the impact on unit cohesion of racial integration into the U.S. military beginning in 1948. It found that “racial integration did not ‘destroy’ unit cohesion and military effectiveness, as so many opponents had argued it would.” It also found even “unfavorable attitudes toward integration did not necessarily translate into violent or obstructionist behavior” among troops, and that initial resistance to change was overcome “through concerted civilian and military leadership.”

GAO report, “Defense Force Management: DOD’s Policy on Homosexuality”

In 1992, the GAO conducted its own study of the gay exclusion policy. Its researchers looked at seventeen different countries and eight police and fire departments in four U.S. cities and reviewed military and nonmilitary polls, studies, legal decisions, and scholarly research on homosexual service. The GAO recommended in an early draft that Congress “may wish to direct the Secretary of Defense to reconsider the basis” for gay exclusion.

GAO report, “Homosexuals in the Military: Policies and Practices of Foreign Countries U.S. General Accounting Office”

In 1993, the U.S. General Accounting Office reported its findings from its study of twenty-five foreign militaries, with special focus on Israel, Canada, Germany and Sweden. According to its final report, “Military officials in all four countries said that the presence of homosexuals in the military is not an issue and has not created problems in the functioning of military units.” A key factor, said the report, was that homosexuals are reluctant to openly admit their sexual orientation even once the ban is lifted.

Briefing Note for Director of Personnel Policy: Effects of Cancellation of Canadian Forces Policy Restricting Service of Homosexuals

The review by a bureau of the Canadian military found that, “despite all the anxiety that existed through the late 80s into the early 90s about the change in policy, here’s what the indicators show—no effect.”

Tri-Service Review of the Armed Forces Policy on Homosexuality and Code of Social Conduct

The 2002 report by the British Ministry of Defence confirmed that “there has been no discernible impact on operational effectiveness” as a result of ending the gay ban and that “no further review of the Armed Forces policy on homosexuality” was necessary.

A co-production with Palm Center