Air Force surveys itself on attitudes about gays Poll taken in light of Clinton position

December 04, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Air Force is spending $20,000 in an effort to find out what its enlisted personnel and officers think of homosexuals -- and the prospect of serving alongside openly gay men and women after President-elect Bill Clinton takes office.

But while taxpayers are footing the cost, the results won't be made public. The conclusions are "designed for internal Air Force use only," the service said in a statement yesterday. The Air Force also declined to release a copy of the questionnaire it's using to sample 900 of its personnel.

"The Air Force is surveying its members to elicit their attitudes and opinions toward the current ban of known homosexuals in the military and proposed changes to that policy," the service said in a statement.

A spokesman refused to say whether the survey is intended to help the Air Force deal with Mr. Clinton's expected order lifting the 50-year-old ban.

"It's just to give the senior Air Force leadership an idea of the

climate inside the service on this issue," Maj. Bob Potter said.

The Air Force expects to spend "approximately $20,000" on the effort, but that could go up depending "on the length of interviewers' phone conversations with respondents," the statement said.

Officials with the Army, Marines and Navy said their services had no such surveys under way, nor any plans to conduct any.

The depth of feeling on the topic in the Air Force can be seen -- but not quantified -- in letters published by Air Force Times, a private newspaper for Air Force personnel that recently called for lifting the ban against openly gay men and women serving in uniform.

"It is ludicrous to think that homosexuals can shower, sleep and change clothes with people of the same sex without becoming aroused, any more than heterosexuals can with the opposite sex," wrote Capt. Ronald G. Joseph from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"So many people are so deeply offended by gays that violence is bound to erupt," warned Sgt. Michael D. Knehans of Chanute Air Force Base, Ill. "Homosexuality is morally disgusting."

Only a trickle of letter writers supported the paper's stance, including Harold E. Eubanks, a reserve sergeant from Salt Lake City. "Gays have most of the same values every other individual has," he said.

"That is no surprise, after all, they were raised in our households, right next to us," he said. "They are our brothers, our sisters, our sons and our daughters."

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