World and Nation

Little harm found if gay ban is lifted, Pentagon report says

WASHINGTON — The draft of a new Pentagon report concluded that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would not cause overall harm to the military but might cause temporary disruptions, people familiar with the report said Thursday.

Any temporary disruptions could be mitigated with effective leadership, the draft report said.

The people familiar with the report, who are in favor of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces, also said that the report did not recommend separate housing for gay service members. But they said the report showed that a number of active-duty service members remain opposed to openly gay service, with the largest proportion in the Marines and the Army.

Overall, however, they said that the report showed that the majority of active-duty service members and their families did not care if gay men and lesbians served openly.

The report, which is under review by the Pentagon’s civilian and military hierarchy, is due to be released Dec. 1. A number of its details were first reported Thursday by The Washington Post.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents some of the 13,000 gay men and lesbians discharged from the military since the 17-year-old law took effect, in part blamed the leadership of the Army and Marines for the opposition to repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” among their rank-and-file.

“While the culture in those two branches may be somewhat different than the other services,” Sarvis said, “before the surveys were even launched, the leadership at the very top within the Marines and Army had biased the survey by expressing their hostile opposition to open service.”

Sarvis was referring to comments earlier this year by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. James T. Conway, at the time the commandant of the Marine Corps, expressing deep concern about moving rapidly to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Last weekend the current commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, told reporters in California that ending the ban in the middle of two wars would involve “risk” for Marines. He said, “There is nothing more intimate than young men” who are “laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers.”

Amos was quickly rebuked for his comments by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who supports repeal. On Thursday, Amos’ spokesman, Maj. Joseph M. Plenzler, said that Amos’ comments had been about the nature of human interaction on the battlefield, not sleeping arrangements. Plenzler said that Amos had introduced his comments with the sentence, “There’s nothing more intimate than combat, and I want to make that point crystal clear.”