New Poll: Plurality Of Americans Support Gays In The Military

Poll Suggests GOP’s Opposition to Gays in the Military Could Backfire, Says HRC

WASHINGTON–A new Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign shows that nearly two-thirds of voters believe that gays should be allowed to serve in the military. The poll shows that the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the GOP’s leading presidential candidates are out of step with the American people on this issue and it may come back to haunt them in the general election, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"This poll reconfirms that the majority of the American people see no logical reason why gay or lesbian service members should be harassed or discharged if they are serving their country honorably," said HRC Communications Director David M. Smith. "The GOP’s mindless opposition to gays in the military may solidify the perception that they are a party held captive by their more intolerant elements. This perception of mean spiritedness hurt them in the last election and may lead to the same disappointing results again in November."

According to the poll, 64 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve in the military. More than a majority in every demographic subgroup–including Republicans–support allowing gays in the military. Women voters, 72 percent, voters under thirty-five, 71percent, and college graduates, 71 percent support gays serving in the military.

Nearly three quarters of Democratic voters, 74 percent, and nearly two thirds of Independent or unaffiliated registered voters, 64 percent, support allowing gays to serve in the military. Half of all Republicans, 50 percent, support allowing gays to serve in the military.

A strong plurality of voters, 43 percent, believe gays should be able to serve openly without hiding their sexual orientation, while just 29 percent believe gays in the military should hide their sexual orientation. Less than a fifth, 18 percent, say gays should not be able to serve under any circumstances.

Majorities of women, 53 percent, believe gays should be allowed to serve openly. The majority of 25 to 34 year olds, 52 percent, support gays serving openly in the military. Support for gays serving openly also runs high with college graduates with 51 percent believing gays should be able to do so.

A solid majority of Democrats, 54 percent, and a plurality of Independent and unaffiliated registered voters, 41 percent, believe gays should not have to hide their sexual orientation to serve in the military. A third of Republican voters, 31 percent, believe gays should be allowed to serve openly.

The Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates poll follows the release of a Human Rights Campaign television ad, which was launched yesterday in Iowa and New Hampshire. The ad challenges the GOP presidential candidates on their support of the current ban on openly gay and lesbian service members. The HRC ad was also released in response to an ad campaign sponsored by the RNC that distorts Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s position on gays in the military and is meant to exploit anti-gay prejudice.

The HRC ad will air this week on select television stations in the key caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The HRC ad begins with shots of the Republican presidential candidates debating each other. The voice over says, "The Republican presidential candidates are so busy fighting about whom can and cannot serve in the military, they may have forgotten the values Americans actually fight for. Next, on a black screen with white reversed type these words appear: "Equality," "Fairness," "Freedom," "Justice," "for all Americans including gay Americans."

The renewed debate on gays in the military was prompted by the premeditated murder conviction of Pvt. Calvin N. Glover for crushing the skull of Pfc. Barry Winchell with a baseball bat. According to reports, Glover was enraged after he bullied Winchell into a fight–using anti-gay epithets—and lost. After the fight, Glover vowed to kill Winchell because he felt humiliated losing a fight to a soldier who was rumored to be gay. On July 5—two days after the altercation—Glover entered the Fort Campbell barracks where Winchell was sleeping and bludgeoned him to death with a baseball bat. A second man, Army Spc. Justin R. Fisher was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in the murder. The military announced that it would launch an investigation into the overtly anti-gay climate at Ft. Campbell that led to Winchell’s death.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue policy was enacted by Congress in 1993 and was supposed to set limits on gay investigations and harassment. But under the policy, hundreds of violations have been documented by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and discharges have steadily increased, reaching the highest rate since 1987. The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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