Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010

A Global Primer
February 23, 2010
Dr. Nathaniel Frank with Dr. Victoria Basham, Geo!rey Bateman, Dr. Aaron Belkin, Dr. Margot Canaday, Dr. Alan Okros, and Denise Scott

Click here to download the full report.

Click here for related information from the Brookings Institute/Palm Center Conference "Lessons Learned from the Service of Gays and Lesbians in Allied Militaries."

Executive Summary
1. Twenty-five nations now allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

2. In many of those countries, debate before the policy changes was highly pitched
and many people both inside and outside the military predicted major disruptions.
In Britain and Canada, roughly two thirds of military respondents in polls said
they would refuse to serve with open gays, but when inclusive policies were
implemented, no more than three people in each country actually resigned.

3. Research has uniformly shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment
without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no
negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat
effectiveness. No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting
the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military.

4. The updated research conducted for this study confirm that early assessments by
both military and independent analysts hold across time: none of the successes
and gains of transitions to full inclusion were reversed by any of the nations
studied, or yielded delayed problems over the years in which these militaries
allowed openly gay service.

5. Evidence suggests that lifting bans on openly gay service contributed to
improving the command climate in foreign militaries, including increased focus
on behavior and mission rather than identity and difference, greater respect for
rules and policies that reflect the modern military, a decrease in harassment,
retention of critical personnel, and enhanced respect for privacy.

6. All the countries studied completed their implementations of repeal either
immediately or within four months of the government’s decision to end
discrimination. These experiences confirm research findings which show that a
quick, simple implementation process is instrumental in ensuring success. Swift,
decisive implementation signals the support of top leadership and confidence that
the process will go smoothly, while a “phased-in” implementation can create
anxiety, confusion, and obstructionism.

7. Two main factors contributed to the success of transitions to openly gay service:
clear signals of leadership support and a focus on a uniform code of behavior
without regard to sexual orientation. Also key are simple training guidelines that
communicate the support of leadership, that explain the uniform standards for
conduct, and that avoid “sensitivity” training, which can backfire by causing
resentment in the ranks.

8. None of the countries studied installed separate facilities for gay troops, nor did
they retain rules treating gays differently from heterosexuals. Each country has
taken its own approach to resolving questions of benefits, housing, partner
recognition, and re-instatement. Generally, the military honors the status afforded
to gay or lesbian couples by that country, and the military rarely gets out in front
of the government or other institutions in the benefits offered.

9. Lifting bans on openly gay service in foreign countries did not result in a mass
coming out.” Yet gay and lesbian troops serve in all levels of the armed forces of
Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Israel, in both combat and noncombat
positions, at both the enlisted level and as high commanders.

10. There were no instances of increased harassment of or by gay people as a result of
lifting bans in any of the countries studied.

11. Informal discrimination in treatment and promotions have not been wiped out, but
evidence suggests that formal policies of equal treatment for people equally
situated helps reduce discrimination and resentment, and helps keep the focus on
behavior necessary to complete the mission rather than on group traits that can
distract from the mission.

12. The U.S. military has a long tradition of considering the experiences of other
militaries to be relevant to its own lessons learned. While there is no doubt that
the U.S. military is different from other militaries, such distinctions have not
prevented the U.S. military from comparing itself to and learning from foreign
armed forces. Using resources like the Foreign Military Studies Office, the U.S.
military itself has commissioned research on matters of personnel, health policy,
housing, weapons innovation, technology, counterterrorism, and the question of
gay service.