March 18, 2010

APA Reaffirms Call to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Cites Scientific Research Refuting Impact on Readiness, Unit Cohesion

WASHINGTON – Scientific research has demonstrated that ending the ban on openly gay people serving in the military is unlikely to reduce military readiness or unit cohesion, according to congressional testimony submitted today by the American Psychological Association.

“There are existing data on what happens in the U.S. armed forces when gay and lesbian service members serve openly,” according to APA testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The gay ban was functionally suspended during the first Gulf War. There was no evidence of adverse effects on military readiness. In addition, the cohesion and performance of the first Gulf War troops was widely commended.”

The committee held a hearing on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, a bill APA strongly supports. In testimony, APA asserted ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy “will not result in extensive re-training and rewriting of military procedures and manuals.”

“Existing training materials in the military already include specific instructions prohibiting harassment on the basis of sexual orientation,” APA testified. “No change will be needed to the military’s criminal law, which does not explicitly reference homosexual conduct.”

APA called on the military to adopt a single code of conduct for all service members, regardless of their sexual orientation. APA also called on military leaders to signal clearly that they expect all military personnel to adhere to the new policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and to put in place systems to monitor and enforce the policy. APA has been a longtime proponent of ending the military’s discrimination based on sexual orientation, noting that empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness, including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention (Belkin, 2003; Belkin & Bateman, 2003; Herek, Jobe, & Carney, 1996; MacCoun, 1996; National Defense Research Institute, 1993). In addition, comparative data from foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments show that when lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly there is no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness (Belkin & McNichol, 2000-2001; Gade, Segal, & Johnson, 1996; Koegel, 1996); and when openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces (Cammermeyer v. Aspin, 1994; Watkins v. United States Army, 1989/1990), there has been no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 152,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.