(CNSNews.com) - A group that wants homosexuals to serve openly in the U.S. military said Monday that the military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits if the ban on homosexuals were lifted.
"The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law hangs like a 'Gays Not Welcome' sign outside the Pentagon's front door," said Sharra Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).
"Thousands of lesbian and gay Americans are ready to answer our nation's call to service, but are turned away because of federally sanctioned discrimination. Now, more than ever, our country needs the talent of these patriotic Americans. We can make our homeland more secure by repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' once and for all," Greer said in a press release.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is citing a new analysis of 2000 data by Gary J. Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Project, UCLA School of Law.
Gates told Cybercast News Service that 14,000 homosexual men, or 1.4 percent, currently are on active duty in the military under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the Clinton era.
But, Gates says, if the ban were lifted and the service rates of homosexual men rose in proportion to the service rates of heterosexual men, that figure would increase to 34,000 homosexuals on active duty. Adjusting the National Guard and Reserve numbers, the potential number of homosexuals in the military would reach 41,000, Gates figured.
"I do think it's important to say that at a time when the military is having recruitment problems, this is one set of people that could potentially be one source of recruitment that they're not using," Gates said.
But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Cybercast News Service , "There are other ways to remedy shortages that we may have in potential recruits right now."
Donnelly said allowing openly homosexual soldiers to serve in the military will have the opposite effect on recruiting numbers.
"Well if you really wanted to destroy recruiting, that would be a pretty good way to do it," said Donnelly, who characterized SLDN as "an advocacy group."
"They don't have the best interests of the military at heart. I don't think they really care about recruiting either. If they did, any fair-minded person would realize that the majority of recruits would certainly be dissuaded in its decision to join the military if the policy were as Bill Clinton wanted it originally [homosexuals being allowed to serve but discreetly]," she said.
"That's a completely unfounded claim," Steve Ralls, director of communication for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told Cybercast News Service.
"We know from our allies' experience that military enlistment did not suffer as a result of lifting the gay ban, and the Pentagon itself cannot point to a single case where a heterosexual service member has said that he or she was unable to serve alongside openly gay allied troops in a war zone. So I don't think there is any basis for that assertion," said Ralls.
Donnelly compared the military's right to exclude homosexuals to female locker rooms with signs that prohibit little boys from entering or excluding little girls from entering men's rooms.
"That doesn't mean that the community that posted those signs, this recreational center, is somehow prejudiced against little boys or little girls, it just means that we do have a respect for sexual privacy, and that is something everyone is very comfortable with," Donnelly said.
"It by no means is comparable to racial separation, something that would be totally unacceptable in virtually every community in America. But sexuality is an entirely different category," she said.
"To say that sexuality doesn't matter, that is something that Congress will not agree to. I don't see them anytime in the near future agreeing to that, nor should they," added Donnelly.
Ralls countered that "there is a growing consensus in Congress among Democrats and Republicans that this policy is not a good idea."
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and allow homosexuals to serve openly, is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. The SLDN notes the bill currently has 90 bi-partisan supporters and was endorsed by eight retired military officers.
"If the Military Readiness Enhancement Act is not taken up for a vote in this Congress, we believe it will be soon," Ralls said.
"When you have members of Congress like Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, who is a staunch conservative, a Vietnam War veteran who knows the military inside and out and is saying that the ban can be lifted and should be lifted, that is a sign of very significant progress," added Ralls.
But, Donnelly said, Congress has already made its intentions known on the subject.
"The concept has been in place since at least 1981 that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The reason is that people live in conditions of forced intimacy. It is not like the civilian world. It is not like any other occupation, and Congress, in its wisdom, passed a law that reflects those military realities," concluded Donnelly.
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