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As Army Misses Annual Recruiting Goal New Data Shows Military Could Attract as Many as 41,000 Gay Recruits by Lifting Ban


WASHINGTON, July 25 -- The United States military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits by lifting its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gay personnel, new data released today by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) shows. The analysis of year 2000 census data, conducted by Gary J. Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Project, UCLA School of Law, indicates the armed forces could significantly close its recruiting gap -- or even eliminate it -- by welcoming openly gay troops to the services.

“The ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law hangs like a ’Gays Not Welcome’ sign outside the Pentagon’s front door,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for 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.”

Sunday’s New York Times reported that Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army’s top personnel officer, predicted in testimony before Congress that the Army would miss its recruiting goal for the year. The shortfall, the Times reported, would include “the active-duty Army, as well as the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.” The Army has also suggested raising the maximum age for enlistment to 42. The Army has not missed its enlistment quota since 1999.

Gates, who previously estimated there are 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans currently serving in the forces, said today that if ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ were repealed, the number of gay men who may feel compelled to enlist in the active duty force, as well as the National Guard and Reserves, could increase. Gates estimates there are currently more than 14,000 gay men on active duty, but if the ban were lifted and their service rates rose to mirror the service rates of heterosexual men, that figure would increase to 34,000 men. When the National Guard and Reserve numbers are also adjusted, the number reaches 41,000.

“(T)here are thousands and thousands of young men and women out there who want to serve this country,” General Peter Pace, the in-coming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted as saying in the Times, an analysis echoed by SLDN.

“There is no justification for continuing to turn away qualified gay Americans from military service,” said Greer. “Our military should be in the business of recruiting the best and brightest Americans. The ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law is a deterrent to service that, we now know, costs our country tens of thousands of troops. The difference those men and women could make on the ground is immeasurable. Congress should take down the ’Gays Not Welcome’ sign and strengthen our national security by ending the ban and welcoming the thousands of lesbian and gay Americans who want to serve.”

The Military Readiness Enchancement Act, a bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow gays to serve openly, is currently pending in Congress. The bill currently has 90 bi-partisan supporters and was endorsed by eight retired military officers.

“Our national security depends on having the best and brightest Americans protecting our freedoms,” said BG Evelyn Foote, one of the first women to achieve the rank of Brigadier General, upon the bill’s introduction. “As a commander, I know that lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans have served our country with honor and distinction. Our armed forces should be able to recruit every qualified, capable American to protect our homeland, regardless of their sexual orientation. ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is not only unnecessary and discriminatory, it is also detrimental to our military readiness. The law does not meet the common sense rule our military should abide by.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and related forms of intolerance.

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