UPDATE: John @ Americablog notes that we may not be in this ridiculous circumstance if SLDN had been in early meetings about repeal. We learned earlier this year that HRC and other groups met with Jim Messina, but SLDN was not invited. See below.
As we learned yesterday, the Pentagon’s survey on DADT repeal impact was sent out to 200,000 active duty troops and 200,000 reserve troops. What you were not told is how LGBs serving in silence would be able to participate without risking being outed in the process.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) had reservations on that very matter, and requested information on the surveys and measures that would be taken to ensure there would not be any outings.
The Pentagon did not give a reply that inspired confidence that this data collection would not lead to an inadvertent discharge, and so SLDN has released a statement/bulletin for all LGBs invited to participate in this survey.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 8, 2010
Trevor Thomas: (616) 430-2030
Paul DeMiglio: (202) 621-5408
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Statement on Pentagon Survey of Troops on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
“At this time SLDN cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members participate in any survey”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), released the following statement today after learning the Department of Defense is launching a survey to troops concerning DADT. Late last week, SLDN asked the Department of Defense and the Pentagon Working Group for the text of the surveys, more information on possible certificates of confidentiality, and whether DOD or PWG could guarantee immunity from DADT and other armed services rules and regulations for service members who are inadvertently “outed” by the surveys. The Department of Defense was unable to satisfy our request.
Statement from Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:
“A number of service members have contacted SLDN to seek guidance on surveys concerning the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the discriminatory law barring gay and lesbian service members from serving with integrity. At this time SLDN cannot recommend that lesbian, gay, or bisexual service members participate in any survey being administered by the Department of Defense, the Pentagon Working Group, or any third-party contractors. While the surveys are apparently designed to protect the individual’s privacy, there is no guarantee of privacy and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself. If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation.”
PENTAGON STATEMENT ON INVESTIGATIONS AND DISCHARGES: In a Denver Post story on June 9, 2010, Cynthia Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, said: “The law is still in effect, and if someone were to out themselves, we would have to begin the discharge process.” Link to story:http://www.denverpost.com/ci_15256223
SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Gay and lesbian service members with questions on repeal are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100.
This is a survey that, btw, includes questions asking participants “how they would react if they had to share a room, bathrooms, and open-bay showers in a war zone with other service members believed to be gay or lesbian.”
Do you think this deck is now stacked against us?
There are lots of questions that this development raises…
* Why was the “Department of Defense was unable to satisfy” SLDN’s quite appropriate request to present basic information about a survey that will profoundly affect the fate of LBG service members?
* It’s telling that the DOD or PWG could not specifically satisfy any kind of guarantee of privacy to SLDN. And that’s not only related to the questions in the survey, mind you, but the actual ability of the Pentagon to prevent leaks. We’ve already seen that, so Bzzt.
And what will be the ramifications of this response by SLDN – will the DOD respond? What will the White House have to say?
SLDN is clearly indicating that the survey process is flawed and implemented in a way that jeopardizes the privacy of an unknown number of the selected survey participants — and the DOD and PWG decided to move forward with the surveys anyway after SLDN made the requests for privacy measures and survey questions.
The data gathered cannot be accurate if all LGBs sit out the survey. Is that what the White House and the Pentagon want?
Alarm bells should be going off ASAP.
UPDATE: John @ Americablog had this to say about this botched survey:
If the survey that is the entire basis of the decision how (and now apparently if) to repeal DADT is screwed up, then the entire implementation of the repeal (if it even ever happens) is going to be screwed up. The Obama administration has just put the entire repeal of DADT in jeopardy.
What genius came up with this screwed up process? White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, or the self-appointed leader of the gay community, who has personally claimed credit for the entire DADT compromise, the Center for American Progress’ Winnie Stachelberg? If this thing gets screwed up – and it already is – and we do not see a full 100% repeal of DADT next year, if we are still discussing separate-but-equal options about segregated showers and barracks in 2011 (while the Pentagon continues to discharge gay troops and the Dept of Justice continues to defend DADT in court), Messina and Stachelberg are going to have to explain to the President why his pissed off that he never seems to be able to keep his word.
We were promised a fierce advocate. This is bullshit.
* Joe Sudbay: SLDN issues warning about participating in Pentagon survey