July 8, 2010

An advocacy group representing gays in the military is warning that participating in a Department of Defense survey about ending 'don't ask, don't tell' could result in discharge.

The Department of Defense has commissioned a survey to assess the impact of ending the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy which bars gays from serving opening. The nonpartisan Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is worried that completing the survey could lead to repercussions and even discharge.

The Washington Post reports:

About 200,000 active-duty troops and 200,000 reserve troops will receive the survey, which should take no more than 30 minutes to complete, the Pentagon said. Troops have until Aug. 15 to complete it. Another 150,000 family members of troops will receive a separate survey in early August.

The survey asks service members about their general experiences in the military, about past experiences serving with people they believe are gay or lesbian and for opinions on how repealing the gay ban might impact retention, referrals, unit cohesion, privacy and military family life, the Pentagon said.

SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis released a statement Thursday. "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," said Sarvis.

"If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation," he said.

The Department of Defense contends that the survey is confidential.

The survey includes questions like "if you have to share a room, bathroom, open base showers how would you react if there were openly gay or lesbian members of your unit?"

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