In the weeks ahead, Congress and the Pentagon will review the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, weighing the future service of gays and lesbians in the U.S. military. While U.S. officials are still discussing policy options, several nations allied with the United States have already implemented inclusive policies that allow homosexuals to serve openly while maintaining their military’s operational effectiveness. How were the policies of the other nations implemented and what lessons can be drawn from their experiences?
On May 19, the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings and the University of California Santa Barbara’s Palm Center hosted military officers and experts from Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and Sweden to explore their militaries’ experiences in implementing these policy changes. The conference sought to inform the discussion of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by exploring how exactly their militaries transitioned to allowing openly gay service members and what insights they might provide to the United States on this issue. The event included four panels that explored the key questions, ranging from ministerial-level perspectives all the way down to tactical unit commanders’ experiences.
After each panel, panelists took audience questions.