Steve Chapman

Familiarity, in this case, doesn't breed contempt. It breeds acceptance. Heterosexuals have always lived and worked with gays, but without knowing it. Once they find out, most learn they have more similarities than differences.

If the military's ban on open gays is repealed, a lot of people in uniform will soon come to the same realization. Many already have. The Pentagon's new report on "don't ask, don't tell" says that when it surveyed military personnel, two out of three said they've served alongside colleagues they believed to be gay.

Such experiences make a huge difference. In Army combat units, 48 percent of those responding said repeal of the ban would have a negative impact, and in Marine combat units, 58 percent agreed.

But among those who have served with someone they believe to be gay, 92 percent of service members found no negative effects on unit performance. Nine out of 10 of those in Army combat units, as well as 84 percent of those in Marine combat units, said the same thing.

Like any big change, the repeal will have its awkward moments, and it will take some adjustment. But in the end, it will turn out to be no big deal.

As one "special operations warfighter" quoted in the report said, "We have a gay guy. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay." I know the feeling.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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