Pace's belief that homosexuality is immoral and that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military may seem like a contradiction, but it is not unusual. A majority of Republicans, regular churchgoers and even people with negative attitudes toward homosexuality think gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, reported the Boston Globe in 2005. A CNN poll in May 2007 found that almost 80 percent of Americans believe people who are openly gay or lesbian should be allowed to serve in the military.
But most members of the military seem more tolerant than Pace.
About 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays, according to a Zogby poll in December 2006. That represents an enormous change from 1993 when President Clinton first instituted "don't ask, don't tell."
"Back then, about 16 percent of the military said gays should serve -- that is a massive change in less than 15 years," said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Michael D. Palm Center, which tracks such data.
Pace's successor, Adm. Michael Mullen, seems open to revising "don't ask, don't tell." Before his nomination, he told the Brookings Institution, "It's time to revisit that policy… the American people ought to raise that issue and we'll have the debate."
And in the midst of the war in Iraq, the Pentagon seems less concerned about the sexuality of its soldiers. The number of "don't ask, don't tell" discharges has nose-dived from 1,273 in 2001 to 612 in 2006. Overall, an estimated 65,000 gays and lesbians serve in the military, which represents about 2.5 to 3 percent of the total armed forces, according to an estimate by the Urban Institute.
"The pattern is the same in every single war since World War II," said Belkin. "Once the bullets start flying, the discharges fall dramatically."