William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


In the wake of the Obama Administration’s pledge to repeal
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the United States, the Columbia Law
School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic undertook a review of how
allies of the United States moved from a policy of banning gay and
lesbian servicemembers from serving in the armed forces to a policy
of allowing these servicemembers to serve openly (“open service”).
In documenting this review, this report aims to provide information
about the decision to implement open service and the mechanics of
the transition to open service in Australia, Canada, Israel, and the
United Kingdom. In addition to addressing concerns about the effect
of open service on unit cohesion and morale, this report also includes
information about how the militaries of Australia, Canada, Israel, and
the United Kingdom have implemented their open service policies
on the ground. The report examines, as well, the ways in which U.S.
soldiers have worked as part of multinational forces with members
of other militaries that have open service policies.

Open Service and Our Allies shows that no significant problems
have arisen as a result of a transition to open service. Notably, not
one country studied in this report has made any changes to its housing
or bathrooms. Moreover, although all of the countries studied in
this report have reported scattered incidents of harassment, this
report also shows that there has been no pervasive discrimination
against or harassment of gay and lesbian servicemembers. Whereas
some countries achieved a successful transition through educational
and sensitivity training, others have not addressed harassment of gay
and lesbian servicemembers in their trainings. The common thread, instead, has been an emphasis on strong leadership and a clear statement
of the behavior that is expected of servicemembers. This report
also shows that none of the countries studied have experienced a decline
in unit cohesion or morale. To the contrary, many of the countries
studied have seen an increase in morale due to servicemembers’
increased ability to focus on work, rather than on hiding their sexual
orientation, and a decrease in paranoia and suspicion as a result of
the new open environment.

Overall, this report shows that the transition to open service in
Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom was smooth,
although not always flawless, and provides some insight into what
such a transition might look like in the United States.