Skip to content

Military Selling Public On ‘Out-And-Proud’

June 21, 2012

A little PR can go a long way.

Top military commanders had the advantage of predicting the eventual end of DADT—which everyone knew was only a stopgap, with our military eventually joining every other Western democracy’s nondiscriminatory policy. “There was a lot of conversation about when the policy would go away, not if,” Haggerty says.

Military recruiters and Pentagon PR honchos had long ago realized that “repeal wasn’t going to undermine the military leadership or break the all-volunteer force,” says Aaron Belkin, who teaches political science at San Francisco State University and does research on civil-military relations for the Palm Center. In fact, the Pentagon told recruiters they could accept gay and lesbian recruits as early as July 2011—months before the repeal went into effect.

Madison Avenue has had a long history of working with the U.S. Department of Defense. As with DADT’s end, when President Harry Truman’s 1952 executive order desegregated the ranks of the U.S. Army, the main battle was on the civilian front. “People didn’t have the preconditioning with racial integration,” Haggerty says. “What DADT did for us was say: ‘Look, we know there are gay and lesbian service members. We just don’t want them to tell us.'”

Some would argue that it took decades for blacks—and later, women—to integrate successfully into the ranks. America had to wait until 1989 before Army General Colin Powell became the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now Haggerty believes we’ll see an openly gay man (or lesbian) serve in the highest military post in less time, because sexual identity for young people is quickly becoming a nonissue. “The average age of an enlisted person is 19 or so,” he says. “These are people who grew up where issues surrounding gay equality were always on the table. It would be difficult to find someone in that age group who’s never known a person that is gay or lesbian; 20 years ago, you’d get a different response.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: