Gay rights group protests 'Don't ask, don't tell' survey

A gay rights advocacy group is pushing for grassroots action against a recent Pentagon survey on the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

Equality California is gathering signatures for a petition asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to reissue a survey of armed services members that has been charged of being biased against gay people.

In an e-mail to activists this week, Mario Guerrero, the group’s government affairs director, says the current survey uses derogatory terms and asks biased questions, such as what soldiers’ reactions would be if they had to share a bathroom with someone they suspected to be gay.

“The survey is insulting, one-sided, and designed to illicit a negative response,” Guerrero said in the e-mail.

The survey, which was meant to be private, was leaked to the press after many accused the polling of being biased against gay people. Defense officials have defended the survey and said it was a necessary step to gauge soldiers’ attitudes due to the anticipated change in law that will allow gay service members to serve openly.

In a conference call last week, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said some press reports on the polling questions had been "inflammatory" and "misleading." The survey was not intended “in any way to conduct a referendum on whether or not there should be a repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” he told reporters.

“We need this survey, and we need people to participate in this survey to get a scientific understanding of the attitudes of the force and the concerns or issues or even opportunities that may be posed by a repeal of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Morrell said.

Guerrero told The Hill that the survey was “counter-productive” and that he, as a Marine veteran, could not think of a time when the Pentagon had made decisions based on polling.

The leak of the Pentagon survey come as activists gear up for a Senate ban on ending the service restrictions. The House has already passed its own bill ending “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Equality California has already lobbied for a state legislature resolution to call for an end to the service ban, which passed earlier this year. Guerrero said he is hoping for a vote on the repeal before the August recess in the Senate.

“We are for holding our leaders accountable, including the president. We have heard time and time again that the repeal will be done this year. We want to make sure it happens,” Guerrero said.