“DON’T ASK DON’T TELL”
“Don’t ask don’t tell” is a discriminatory policy of the U.S. government and military. It prevents the estimated 65,000 gay Americans in the military from serving openly, as well as gives the military authority to permanently dismiss a servicemember if it is discovered that they are gay. The policy is
homophobic and unnecessary: it unfairly disrespects gay servicemembers and their partners and families by not allowing pensions and benefits to pass on if the servicemember is killed in combat. It also perpetuates silence and shame. We are against DADT and want the repeal of that law to stand. we want everyone to be able to ASK, TELL.
Below is a rundown of the history of gays in the military, the “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy, and current legislative and judicial action being taken against the policy.
BEFORE “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
- -Lieutenant G.F. Enslin was the ﬁrst soldier discharged from the U.S. military for sodomy, in 1778.
- -Starting in 1916, neutral blue discharges were often given to gay personnel
- -By World War II, psychiatry labeled homosexuality as an indicator of psychopathology and speciﬁc “undesirable discharges” started being given to gay military. Gay servicemembers found guilty of engaging in sexual conduct were dishonorably discharged.
- -In 1950, The Uniform Code of Military Justice, passed by Congress and signed by President Harry S Truman, established the policies and procedures for discharging homosexual servicemembers.
- -From the 1940s through the Vietnam War, homosexuals were allowed to serve, when personnel shortages occurred.
- -In 1982, Reagan’s Department of Defense issued an absolute ban policy, the Defense Directive 1332.14, stating that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service”
- -During the 1992 Presidential election, the subject becomes a political issue. Presidential candidate Governor Bill Clinton pledges to lift the ban on gay men and women in the U.S. military.
- -After Bill Clinton won the presidency, Congress rushed to enact the 1982 absolute ban policy into Federal law. President Clinton answered by introducing congressional legislation to overturn the ban, but because of the resistance of members of Congress and portions of the U.S. public, he had to come to a compromise policy.
- -November 30, 1993 – President Clinton signs “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 1994, which directed that military applicants were not to be asked about their sexual orientation.
ABOUT “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
The full name of the policy at the time was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.”
“DON’T ASK” states that military or appointed ofﬁcials will not ask about or require members to reveal their sexual orientation.
“DON’T TELL” states that a member may be discharged for claiming to be a homosexual or intent to engage in homosexual activities.
“DON’T PURSUE” establishes what is minimally required for an investigation to be initiated.
“DON’T HARASS”, was added later and ensures that the military will not allow harassment or violence against service members for any reason.
REPEALING “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
- -The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy has been under the attack of LGBTQ & Human Rights associations in courts and Congress since its signature. In the past 5 years, both legislative and judicial pressure sensibly increased.
- -In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on a full repeal of the laws barring gays from serving in the military. However, the newly in place Obama administration quickly acknowledged that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal would not be a priority.
- -On 14 October, 2010, while asking Federal Judge Virginia Phillips to withhold her injunction to lift the ban, Barack Obama paradoxically reafﬁrmed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would end “under [his] watch”.
- -The Obama Government acknowledges its preference for overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislatively rather than through the courts, arguing that a congressional solution would be stronger legally than simply letting a court ruling bear the weight alone. They also argue that an immediate repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would create chaos in a non-prepared Army.
FIGHTING “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” IN COURTS
- -“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been upheld ﬁve times in federal court, and in one Supreme Court case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. (2006)
- -The latest and most promising federal lawsuit was initiated in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s largest Republican gay organization. It’s calling for a repeal of the law on the grounds that it violates the rights of gay military members to free speech, due process and open association.
- -On September 9, 2010, in the Log Cabin Republican v. United States of America lawsuit, Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, as a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments.
- -On October 12, 2010, Judge Phillips ordered the military to suspend and discontinue any investigation or discharge, separation, or other proceeding that have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
- -On October 14, 2010, The Department of Justice threatens to appeal if Judge Phillips doesn’t withdraw her injunction, requesting for an emergency stay to allow them to continue to work under the policy. If the government does not appeal, the injunction cannot be reversed and would remain in effect. In case of appeal, either side could then take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Pentagon said that it would suspend enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” while Phillips’ injunction remains in place.
FIGHTING “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL” IN CONGRESS
- -While the legislative action to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” seems to be an endless spiral, the progress in the past 5 years is tangible, with many voices rising high in the Military, the White House and the Congress.
- -In September 2005, the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, revealed the existence of a 1999 FORSCOM regulation (Regulation 500-3-3) that allows the active duty deployment of openly gay Army Reservists and National Guard troops.
- -In December 2007, 28 retired Generals and Admirals urged Congress to repeal the policy. In November 2008, 104 retired Generals and Admirals signed a similar statement.
- -In January 2010, the White House and congressional ofﬁcials started work on repealing the ban by inserting language into the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill.
- -On March 25, 2010, Defense Secretary announced new rules mandating that only ﬂag ofﬁcers may initiate discharge proceedings and imposing more stringent rules for discharge proceedings. However, the most hope resides in the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.
- -The Military Readiness Enhancement Act has been introduced four times to the House of Representatives since 2005, with the stated purpose “to enhance the readiness of the Armed Forces by replacing the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, referred to as ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
- -The Military Readiness Enhancement Act was first introduced to the senate in 2010. Barack Obama stated that if MREA 2010 is passed by the Congress, he would sign a bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
- -This MREA bill saw the involvement of high representatives, such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who denounced the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In May 2010, the House voted for repeal, as did the Senate Armed Services Committee. However, the repeal was blocked by Republicans on the Senate ﬂoor on 21, September 2010. Some in the Congress now hope the matter can be reexamined in the fall 2010.
UPDATE: VICTORY! ‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’ REPEALED ON DECEMBER 18, 2010.
U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell.’
“By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will patriotic Americans be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.” – President Barack Obama.
for more information check out servicemembers united, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops, veterans, allies and supporters.