Don't ask, don't tell

Don't ask, don't tell

"Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) was the official United States policy on homosexuals serving in the military from December 21, 1993 to September 20, 2011.[1][2] The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. The restrictions were mandated by United States federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654). The policy prohibited people who "demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because their presence "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."[3] The act prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The act specified that service members who disclose that they are homosexual or engage in homosexual conduct should be separated (discharged) except when a service member's conduct was "for the purpose of avoiding or terminating military service" or when it "would not be in the best interest of the armed forces".[4]

The "don't ask" part of the DADT policy specified that superiors should not initiate investigation of a servicemember's orientation without witnessing disallowed behaviors, though credible evidence of homosexual behavior could be used to initiate an investigation. Unauthorized investigations and harassment of suspected servicemen and women led to an expansion of the policy to "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue, don't harass."[5]

A congressional bill to repeal DADT was enacted in December 2010, specifying that the policy would remain in place until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that repeal would not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period.[6] A July 6, 2011 ruling from a federal appeals court barred further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members.[7] President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, sent that certification to Congress on July 22, 2011, which set the end of DADT for September 20, 2011.[8]



The U.S. Army training guide on the homosexual conduct policy gives official guidelines on what can be considered credible information of someone's homosexuality.

Sodomy has been grounds for discharge from the American military since the Revolutionary War, but the LGBT-related policies changed over the course of the 20th century. Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was the first soldier discharged from the U.S. military (at that time, the Continental Army) for sodomy, in 1778.[9]

As the United States prepared to enter World War II, the military added psychiatric screening to its induction process. At the time, psychiatry labeled homosexuality as an indicator of psychopathology, and this notion was added to military practices. The first time "homosexual" people were distinguished from "normal" people in the military literature was in revised army mobilization regulations in 1942.[9] Whereas before the buildup to the war gay servicemembers were court-martialed, imprisoned and dishonorably discharged, in wartime commanding officers found it difficult to convene court-martial boards of commissioned officers and the administrative blue discharge became the discharge of choice for gay and lesbian personnel. In 1944, a new policy directive decreed that homosexuals were to be committed to military hospitals, examined by psychiatrists and discharged under Regulation 615-360, section 8.[10]

In 1947, blue discharges were discontinued and two new classifications were created: "general" and "undesirable". Under such a system, a servicemember found to be gay but who had not committed any sexual acts while in service would tend to receive an undesirable discharge. Those found guilty of engaging in sexual conduct were usually dishonorably discharged.[11] A 1957 U.S. Navy study known as the Crittenden Report dismissed the charge that homosexuals constitute a security risk, but advocated stringent anti-homosexual policies because "Homosexuality is wrong, it is evil, and it is to be branded as such."[12] It remained secret until 1976.[13] Fannie Mae Clackum was the first service member to successfully appeal such a discharge, winning eight years of back pay from the US Court of Claims in 1960.[14]

From the 1940s through the Vietnam War, some notable gay servicemembers avoided discharges despite pre-screening efforts, and when personnel shortages occurred, homosexuals were allowed to serve.[15]

The gay and lesbian rights movement in the 1970s and 1980s raised the issue by publicizing several noteworthy dismissals of gay servicemembers, with Sgt. Leonard Matlovich appearing on the cover of Time in 1975.[16] The Department of Defense issued a 1982 policy (DOD Directive 1332.14) stating that homosexuality was clearly incompatible with military service.[9] The policy garnered public scrutiny through the 1980s and 1990s, and it became a political issue in the 1992 U.S. presidential election with Bill Clinton and others citing the brutal murder of gay Navy petty officer Allen R. Schindler, Jr.

After Bill Clinton won the presidency, Congress rushed to enact the existing gay ban policy into federal law, outflanking Clinton's planned repeal effort. Clinton called for legislation to overturn the ban, but it encountered intense scrutiny by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, members of Congress, and portions of the public. DADT emerged as a compromise policy.[9]


The policy was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 by President Bill Clinton who campaigned on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.[17] At the time, per the December 21, 1993 Department of Defense Directive 1332.14,[18] it was legal policy (10 U.S.C. § 654)[19] that homosexuality is incompatible with military service and that persons who engaged in homosexual acts or stated that they are homosexual or bisexual were to be discharged.[17][20] The Uniform Code of Military Justice, passed by Congress in 1950 and signed by President Harry S Truman, established the policies and procedures for discharging service members.[21]

Congress overrode Clinton by including text in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (passed in 1993) requiring the military to abide by regulations essentially identical to the 1982 absolute ban policy.[20] The Clinton Administration on December 21, 1993,[22] issued Defense Directive 1304.26, which directed that military applicants were not to be asked about their sexual orientation.[20] This is the policy now known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". The phrase was coined by Charles Moskos, a military sociologist.

The full name of the policy at the time was "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue." The "Don’t Ask" provision mandated that military or appointed officials will not ask about or require members to reveal their sexual orientation. The "Don’t Tell" stated that a member may be discharged for claiming to be a homosexual or bisexual or making a statement indicating a tendency towards or intent to engage in homosexual activities. The "Don’t Pursue" established what was minimally required for an investigation to be initiated. A "Don’t Harass" provision was added to the policy later. It ensured that the military would not allow harassment or violence against service members for any reason.[9]

At times beatings of gay personnel were severe and occasionally even fatal, as in the case of Allen R. Schindler, Jr.. In defense of his DADT policy, President Clinton cited U.S. Navy Radioman Third Class Schindler, brutally murdered by shipmate Terry M. Helvey (with the aid of an accomplice), leaving a "nearly-unrecognizable corpse".[23] DADT has officially prohibited such behavior, but harassment continues.[24]

In the midst of the 1993 controversy, the National Defense Research Institute prepared a study for the Office of the Secretary of Defense published as Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment.[25] It concluded, in measured language, that "circumstances could exist under which the ban on homosexuals could be lifted with little or no adverse consequences for recruitment and retention"[26] if the policy were implemented with care, principally because many factors contribute to individual enlistment and re-enlistment decisions.

In Congress, Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia led the contingent that favored maintaining the absolute ban on gays. Reformers were led by Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who favored modification (but ultimately voted for the defense authorization bill with the gay ban language), and retired Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who argued on behalf of full repeal. After Congressional phone lines were flooded by organized anti-gay opposition, President Clinton backed off on his campaign promise to repeal the ban in favor of DADT.

Reservist exception

In September 2005, the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military – a think tank affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and renamed the Michael D. Palm Center in October 2006 – issued a news release revealing they had found a 1999 FORSCOM Regulation (500-3-3 RC Unit Commander's Handbook) that allowed the active duty deployment of Army Reservists and National Guard troops who say that they are gay or who are accused of being gay. U.S. Army Forces Command spokesperson Kim Waldron later confirmed the regulation and indicated that it was intended to prevent Reservists and National Guard members from pretending to be gay to escape combat.[27]

Court challenges

DADT has been upheld by four of the federal Courts of Appeal,[28] and in a Supreme Court case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. (2006), the Supreme Court unanimously held that the federal government could constitutionally withhold funding from universities if they refuse to give military recruiters access to school resources, in spite of any university nondiscrimination policies.[29]

In 2004 a federal lawsuit challenging DADT was filed by the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest Republican gay organization.[30] The case went to trial in 2010, before Judge Virginia A. Phillips. Plaintiffs stated that the policy violates the rights of gay military members to free speech, due process and open association. The government argued that DADT was necessary to advance a legitimate governmental interest.[31] Plaintiffs introduced admissions by President Barack Obama, from prepared remarks, that DADT "doesn’t contribute to our national security", "weakens our national security", and that reversal is "essential for our national security". According to plaintiffs, these statements alone satisfy their burden of proof and compel judgment in favor of Log Cabin Republicans on the due process claims.[32]

On September 9, 2010, Judge Phillips ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, as a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments.[33][34]

On October 12, 2010, Judge Phillips granted a worldwide, immediate injunction prohibiting the Department of Defense from enforcing or complying with the Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy, and ordered the military to suspend and discontinue any investigation or discharge, separation, or other proceeding that have been commenced under the policy.[35][36] The Department of Justice responded with an appeal and a request for a stay of the ruling,[37] a request which was denied by Phillips but granted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 20.[38]

On October 19, 2010, military recruiters were told they could accept openly gay applicants.[39] On October 20, 2010, Lt. Daniel Choi, an openly gay man who had previously been honorably discharged under DADT, re-enlisted in the US Army.[40] On October 20, 2010, a federal appeals court in California granted a temporary stay reversing a worldwide injunction against enforcement of the US military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy maintaining the DADT policy.[41]

On November 1, 2010, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Judge Phillips' injunction pending appeal.[42][43] The plaintiffs applied to the US Supreme Court to overrule the stay,[44] but the Supreme Court did not intervene.[45]

Following passage of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, the Justice Department asked the Ninth Circuit to suspend LCR's suit in light of the legislative repeal. LCR opposed the request, noting that gay personnel were still subject to discharge. On January 28, 2011, the Court denied the Justice Department's request.[46] The Obama administration responded by requesting that the policy be allowed to stay in place while they completed the process of assuring that its end would not impact combat readiness. On March 28, the LCR filed a brief asking that the court deny the administration's request.[47]

While waiting for certification, several service members were discharged under DADT at their own insistence,[48] until July 6 when a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals re-instated Judge Phillips' injunction barring further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members.[7] Oral arguments for appealing Judge Phillips' ruling that DADT is unconstitutional are to be scheduled for the week of August 29, 2011.[49] On July 11, the appeals court asked the DOJ to inform the court if it intends to proceed with its appeal.[50] On July 14, the Justice Department filed a motion "to avoid short-circuiting the repeal process established by Congress during the final stages of the implementation of the repeal."[51] attorneys warned of "significant immediate harms on the government." On July 15, the Ninth Circuit restored most of the DADT policy.[51] However, the new order continued to explicitly prohibit the government from discharging or investigating openly gay personnel.

The Phillips ruling barring DADT enforcement was vacated following repeal of the policy by a panel of three judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[52]


Military Readiness Enhancement Act

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act was a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005 by Rep. Martin T. Meehan with the stated purpose "to amend title 10, United States Code, 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 bill was introduced again in 2007 and 2009.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

The Senate passed S.4023 65-31 with all Democrats (except for one abstention) and 8 Republicans in support.
  Both yes
  One yes, one did not vote
  One yes, one no
  One no, one did not vote
  Both no

In his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama advocated a full repeal of the laws barring homosexuals from serving in the military.[53] On October 10, 2009, Obama stated in a speech before the Human Rights Campaign that he will end the ban, but offered no timetable.[54] As president, Obama said in his first State of the Union Address in 2010, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."[55] This statement was quickly followed up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen voicing their support for a repeal of DADT.[56]

On March 25, 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced new rules mandating that only flag officers may initiate discharge proceedings and imposing more stringent rules of evidence be used during discharge proceedings.[57]

On May 27, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Murphy amendment[58] to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 on a 234–194 vote[59] that would repeal the relevant sections of the law 60 days after a study by the U.S. Department of Defense is completed and the U.S. Defense Secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the U.S. President certify that repeal would not harm military effectiveness.[60][61] On the same day the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee advanced the identical measure in a 16–12 vote to be included in the Defense Authorization Act.[60] The amended defense bill passed the U.S. House on May 28, 2010.[62] On September 21, 2010, John McCain led a successful (Yea 56, Nay 43) filibuster against the debate on the Defense Authorization Act.[63] The bill languished in the Senate until December.

Obama meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the eve of publication of a Defense Department report on repeal of DADT.

In late November, the Pentagon published a comprehensive report on the issues associated with a repeal of DADT. The report indicated that there was low risk of service disruptions because of repeal of the ban.[64] Gates, fearing that Courts would force a sudden change, encouraged Congress to act quickly to repeal the law so that the military could carefully adjust.[64] Democrats in Congress quickly scheduled hearings to consider repeal of the law.[65] On December 3, the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to testify about repeal.[66] While the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, and Commandant of the Coast Guard said repeal would cause minimal disruption, heads of the Army, Air Force, and Marines opposed repeal because it would cause additional stress on combat focused forces during war.[66]

On December 9, 2010, another filibuster prevented debate on the Defense Authorization Act during the lame duck session of Congress. Susan Collins of Maine voted in favor of cloture on the bill and Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against cloture.[67] Manchin stated that he did not support cloture because he had not yet consulted constituents on the issue, but said that the policy "probably should be repealed in the near future".[68]

U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins introduced bill S.4022 on December 9, 2010, in reaction to the failure to open discussion on the Defense Authorization Act. It includes the policy-related portions of the Defense Authorization Act which are considered by Lieberman and Collins as more likely to pass as a stand-alone bill. The Washington Post compared it to a Hail Mary pass.[69][70] The stand-alone bill H.R. 6520 was sponsored by Patrick Murphy and passed the House of Representatives via H.R. 2965 in a vote of 250 to 175 on December 15, 2010.[71][72]

On December 18, 2010, the Senate voted to end debate on S.4023, the Senate's bill identical to H.R.2965, via a cloture vote of 63–33.[73] Prior to the vote, Sen. Lieberman gave the final argument in favor of repealing DADT and Sen. McCain argued against repeal. The final Senate vote was held later that same day, with the measure passing by a vote of 65–31.[74]

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released a statement following the vote indicating that the planning for implementation of a policy repeal would begin right away, led by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley, and would continue until Gates certified that conditions were met for orderly repeal of the policy.[75]

President Obama signed the repeal into law on December 22, 2010.[6]


The repeal act established a process for winding down the DADT policy. The President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were required to certify in writing that they had reviewed the Pentagon's report on the effects of DADT repeal, that the appropriate regulations had been reviewed and drafted and that implementation of repeal regulations "is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces". Once certification was given, a 60-day waiting period would begin before DADT was formally repealed.[76]

Representative Duncan D. Hunter announced plans in January 2011 to introduce a bill designed to delay DADT repeal. Had his bill been adopted, all of the chiefs of the armed services would have needed to submit the certification at the time required only of the President, Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs Chairman.[77]

US Navy LT Gary Ross married Dan Swezy, becoming the first same-sex military couple to legally marry in the United States.

In January 2011, Pentagon officials stated that the training process to prepare troops for the repeal would begin in February and would proceed quickly, though they suggested that it might not be completed in 2011.[78] In May 2011, the US Army reprimanded three colonels for performing a skit in March 2011 at a function at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea that mocked the repeal.[79]

While waiting for certification, several service members were discharged at their own insistence[48] until a July 6 ruling from a federal appeals court barred further enforcement of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members,[7] which the military promptly did.[80]

President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent the certification required by the Repeal Act to Congress on July 22, 2011, setting the end of DADT for September 20, 2011.[81] The moment the repeal took effect, US Navy LT Gary Ross married his 11 1/2 year same-sex partner Dan Swezy, becoming the first same-sex military couple to legally marry in the United States.[82] A Pentagon spokesman said that servicemembers discharged under DADT will be able to re-apply to rejoin the military then.[83] On September 30, 2011, the Department of Defense issued Change 3 to DoD Instruction 1332.14, deleting "homosexual conduct" as a ground for administrative separation and thus making the repeal of DADT more fully meaningful.[84]


Public opinion

Protest in New York by Soulforce, a civil rights group.

According to a December 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll 77 percent of Americans say gays and lesbians who publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be able to serve in the military. That number showed little change from polls over the two years, but represents the highest level of support in a Post-ABC poll. The support also cuts across partisan and ideological lines, with majorities of Democrats (86%), Republicans (74%), independents (74%), liberals (92%), conservatives (67%), white evangelical Protestants (70%) and non-religious (84%) in favor of homosexuals' serving openly.[85]

A November 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of the American public favors permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the military, while less than half that number (27 percent) are opposed.[86] According to a November 2010 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll 72% of adult Americans favor permitting people who are openly gay or lesbian to serve in the military, while 23 % oppose it.[87] "The main difference between the CNN poll and the Pew poll is in the number of respondents who told pollsters that they didn't have an opinion on this topic – 16 percent in the Pew poll compared to only five percent in the CNN survey," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The two polls report virtually the same number who say they oppose gays serving openly in the military, which suggests that there are some people who favor that change in policy but for some reason were reluctant to admit that to the Pew interviewers. That happens occasionally on topics where moral issues and equal-treatment issues intersect."[88]

A February 2010 Quinnipiac University national poll shows 57% of American voters favor gays serving openly, compared to 36% opposed, and 66% say the current policy of not allowing openly gay personnel to serve is discrimination, opposed to 31% who see no discrimination.[89] A CBS News/New York Times national poll done at the same time shows 58% of Americans favor gays serving openly, compared to 28% opposed.[90]

Military personnel opinion

In 1993, Comdr. Craig Quigley, then a Navy spokesman, said, "Homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous. If homosexuals are allowed to declare their sexual orientation openly heterosexuals who showered with gay men would have an 'uncomfortable feeling of someone watching.'"[91]

A 2006 Zogby International poll of military members found that 26% were in favor of gays serving in the military, 37% were opposed, while 37% expressed no preference or were unsure. Of the respondents who had experience with gay people in their unit, 6% said their presence had a positive impact on their personal morale, 66% said no impact, and 28% said negative impact. Likewise, regarding overall unit morale, 3% said positive impact, 64% no impact, and 27% negative impact. As for respondents uncertain whether they had served with gay personnel, 2% thought gays would have a positive effect on personal morale, while 29% thought that they would have no impact and 48% thought that they would have a negative effect. Likewise, regarding overall unit morale, 2% thought that gays would have a positive effect on overall unit morale, 26% thought they would have no effect, and 58% thought they would have a negative effect. More generally, 73% of respondents said that they felt comfortable in the presence of gay and lesbian personnel.[92]

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili (Ret.)[93] and former Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen[94] spoke against the policy publicly in January 2007: "I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces," General Shalikashvili wrote. "Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job."[95]

In December 2007, 28 retired generals and admirals urged Congress to repeal the policy, citing evidence that 65,000 gay men and women are currently serving in the armed forces and that there are over 1,000,000 gay veterans.[95][96] On November 17, 2008, 104 retired generals and admirals signed a similar statement.[96]

On May 4, 2008, while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen addressed the graduating cadets at West Point, a cadet asked what would happen if the next administration were supportive of legislation allowing gays to serve openly. Mullen responded, "Congress, and not the military, is responsible for [DADT]." Previously, during his Senate confirmation hearing in 2007, Mullen told lawmakers, "I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that's appropriate." He went on to say, "I'd love to have Congress make its own decisions" with respect to considering repeal.[97]

In an interview on CNN's State of the Union broadcast on July 5, 2009, Colin Powell said he thought that the policy was "correct for the time" but that "sixteen years have now gone by, and I think a lot has changed with respect to attitudes within our country, and therefore I think this is a policy and a law that should be reviewed." In the same program, Admiral Mullen said the policy would continue to be implemented until the law was repealed, and that his advice was to "move in a measured way... At a time when we're fighting two conflicts there is a great deal of pressure on our forces and their families."[98]

Several gay servicemembers have written novels and nonfiction works about life in the military under DADT. In 2005, Rich Merritt released his memoir Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star,[99] and in 2008 Brett Edward Stout released his first novel, Sugar-Baby Bridge.[100] Openly gay servicemember Dan Choi, a founder of West Point's LBGT group Knights Out, made an appearance on the web-based documentary series In Their Boots, criticizing the U.S. military's neglect of servicemembers' families.[101] As a linguist, Choi was among 59 gay Arabic speakers discharged by the military, along with 9 gay Farsi speakers discharged by the military up to June 2009,[102] despite a shortage of translators for these languages.[103]

In September 2009, Air Force Colonel Om Prakash sharply criticized the policy in an article published in Joint Force Quarterly. He argued that it is unsound for several reasons, including the complete lack of any scientific basis for the proposition that unit cohesion is compromised by the presence of openly gay personnel.[104][105] The article won the Secretary of Defense National Security Essay competition for 2009. Speaking in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 2, 2010, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen denounced the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.[106]

In November 2010, the Defense Department published a comprehensive report on the effects of repeal. The report included the results of a survey of military personnel on bases throughout the United States and overseas, including 400,000 servicemembers and 150,000 military spouses.[107] Overall, 70 percent of military personnel thought that integrating gays into the military would be positive, mixed, or of no consequence.[64] However, 60 percent of personnel in the Marine Corps and combat specialties said that repealing the ban would be negative.[64]


In 1993, Gregory M. Herek, associate research psychologist at the University of California at Davis and an authority on public attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, testified before the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Representative Ron Dellums. Testifying on behalf of the American Psychological Association and five other national professional organizations (the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Nursing Association, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States), Herek stated "My written testimony to the Committee summarizes the results of an extensive review of the relevant published research from the social and behavioral sciences. That review is lengthy. However, I can summarize its conclusions in a few words: The research data show that there is nothing about lesbians and gay men that makes them inherently unfit for military service, and there is nothing about heterosexuals that makes them inherently unable to work and live with gay people in close quarters."[108] In his testimony, Herek reviewed existing scientific research concerning issues of unit cohesion and effectiveness and the fitness of lesbians and gay men for military service. He concluded that straight personnel could overcome their prejudices and adapt to living and working in close quarters with gays. Furthermore, he said gays are as capable of military service as straight men and women are. "The assumption that heterosexuals cannot overcome their prejudices toward gay people is a mistaken one," said Herek.[109] Herek stated in 2008: "Today, as then (1993), the real question is not whether sexual minorities can be successfully integrated into the military. The social science data answered this question in the affirmative then, and do so even more clearly now. Rather, the issue is whether the United States is willing to repudiate its current practice of anti-gay discrimination and address the challenges associated with a new policy."[110]

The American Psychological Association has stated:

Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention (Belkin, 2003; Belkin & Bateman, 2003; Herek, Jobe, & Carney, 1996; MacCoun, 1996; National Defense Research Institute, 1993).

Comparative data from foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments show that when lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly there is no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness (Belkin & McNichol, 2000–2001; Gade, Segal, & Johnson, 1996; Koegel, 1996).

When openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces (Cammermeyer v. Aspin, 1994; Watkins v. United States Army, 1989/1990), there has been no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness.

The U.S. military is capable of integrating members of groups historically excluded from its ranks, as demonstrated by its success in reducing both racial and gender discrimination (Binkin & Bach, 1977; Binkin, Eitelberg, Schexnider, & Smith, 1982; Kauth & Landis, 1996; Landis, Hope, & Day, 1984; Thomas & Thomas, 1996).[111]

On November 30, 2010 the Palm Center issued a joint statement from 30 professors and scholars (current and former academics at the Army War College, Naval Academy, West Point, Air Force Academy, Naval Post Graduate School, Naval War College, Air Command and Staff College and National Defense University as well as civilian universities including Harvard, Yale and Princeton) in response to the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group Report on gays in the military. The statement read in part:

We write as scholars who have studied the military for decades. The release of the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Working Group report on gays in the military echoes more than 20 studies, including studies by military researchers, all of which reach the same conclusion: allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will not harm the military. Unsurprisingly, the new Pentagon study, which is based on exhaustive research, confirms that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” poses little if any risk to the armed forces. We hope that our collective statement underscores that the debate about the evidence is now officially over, and that the only remaining rationale for “don’t ask, don’t tell” is prejudice. In light of the report’s findings, this month’s debate in Congress is about one thing and one thing only: will prejudice continue to determine military policy or not?[112]

Barack Obama

During his presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama stated in an open letter[113] that he "called for us to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell".[114] During 2009, President Barack Obama advocated a policy change to allow gay personnel to serve openly in the armed forces, agreeing with General Shalikashvili and stating that the U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops expelled from the military, including language experts fluent in Arabic, because of DADT.[115][116]

Nineteen days after his election, Obama's advisers announced that plans to repeal the policy might be delayed until 2010, because Obama "first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus, and then present legislation to Congress."[117]

In May 2009, a committee of military law experts at the University of California at Santa Barbara[118] concluded that the President could issue an Executive Order to suspend homosexual conduct discharges.[118] Obama's position was that he wanted Congress to change the law and not have the change come from executive action.[119]

In July 2009, the White House and other Democrats reportedly pressured Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings to withdraw an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2647) that would have prevented the military from using federal funds to expel gay servicemembers.[120]

Obama's Justice Department continued to defend the gay ban in court, citing a "traditional" duty to enforce and defend all laws.[121][122] In court documents, government lawyers agreed with the ruling of the Federal Appeals Court in Boston that DADT is "rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion." An appeal of this case brought by Captain James E. Pietrangelo II, Pietrangelo v. Gates 08-824, was subsequently rejected in June 2009 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Obama administration asked that the Supreme Court turn down the challenge to the policy.[122][123]

On the eve of the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., October 10, 2009, Barack Obama stated in a speech before the Human Rights Campaign that he would end the ban, but he offered no timetable.[54][124]

In January 2010, the White House and congressional officials started work on repealing the ban by inserting language into the 2011 defense authorization bill.[125]

During President Obama's State of the Union Address on January 27, 2010, he claimed that he would work with Congress and the military to enact a repeal of the gay ban law. He had made similar statements during other speeches; however, his State of the Union speech was the first in which he definitively committed to repealing the law on a set timetable.

On November 30, 2010, the Department of Defense's Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) on DADT repeal issued its formal report outlining a path to implementation of repeal in the Armed Forces. The United States Senate took up two days of hearings on December 2 and 3, 2010 to discuss the CRWG report and interview Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen, and each of the Service Chiefs. During these hearings, President Obama undertook a surprise trip to Afghanistan to visit deployed servicemembers and was, therefore, unable to provide any direct statement of support for the Senate hearings while they were in the media spotlight.

Letter of support for maintaining DADT

Citing a letter signed by "over one thousand former general and flag officers who have weighed in on this issue," Senator John McCain of Arizona claimed that "we should pay attention and benefit from the experience and knowledge" of these officers. At the February 2, 2010 congressional hearing of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, McCain read directly from the letter, saying "We firmly believe that this law, which Congress passed to protect good order, discipline and morale in the unique environment of the armed forces, deserves continued support." Servicemembers United, a veterans' group opposed to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", issued a subsequent report on the letter’s legitimacy. They found that the claimed signees of the letter included officers who had no knowledge of their inclusion, who had refused to be included, and even one instance of a widow signing the letter in the guise of her husband, a former general who had died before the survey was published. The average age of the officers listed in the letter was 74, the oldest was 98, and Servicemembers United noted that "only a small fraction of these officers have even served in the military during the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' period, much less in the 21st century military."[126]

Activist groups

Several LGBT rights groups have lobbied, started campaigns and issued reports in an effort to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In February 2010, the Human Rights Campaign launched its 'Repeal DADT Now Campaign' to mobilize grassroots support and target swing states.[127] The Center for American Progress issued a report in March 2010 which claimed that eight specified changes must be made to the military's internal regulations to ensure that a repeal is implemented smoothly.[128] The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is dedicated to ending discrimination against military personnel affected by Don't Ask, Don't Tell.[129]

Gay rights groups were divided in 2010 on whether a defense bill should pass if it did not include a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.[130] The Center for Military Readiness and its founder Elaine Donnelly led opposition to repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Donnelly has argued that allowing gays to serve would degrade the quality of service.[131]

Number of discharges

Since the policy was introduced in 1993, the military has discharged over 13,000 troops from the military under DADT.[96][132][133] The number of discharges per fiscal year under DADT dropped sharply after the September 11 attacks and has remained comparatively low since. Discharges exceeded 600 every year until 2009. Unofficial statistics on the number of persons discharged per year follow:

Year Coast Guard Marines Navy Army Air Force Total
1994 0 36 258 136 187 617
1995 15 69 269 184 235 772
1996 12 60 315 199 284 870
1997 10 78 413 197 309 1,007
1998 14 77 345 312 415 1,163
1999 12 97 314 271 352 1,046
2000 19 114 358 573 177 1,241
2001 14 115 314 638 217 1,273
2002 29 109 218 429 121 906
2003* 787
2004 15 59 177 325 92 668
2005 16 75 177 386 88 742
2006* 623
2007* 627
2008* 619
2009* 428
2010* 11 261[134]
Total ≥156 ≥889 ≥3,158 ≥3,650 ≥2,477 13,650

*Breakdown of discharges by service branch not available

Financial impact of policy

In February 2005, the Government Accountability Office released estimates on the cost of the policy. The GAO reported at least $95.4 million in recruiting costs and at least $95.1 million for training replacements for the 9,488 troops discharged from 1994 through 2003, while noting that the true figures might be higher.[135]

In February 2006, a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission including Lawrence Korb, a former assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration, former Defense Secretary William Perry, a member of the Clinton administration, and professors from the United States Military Academy at West Point concluded that figure should be closer to $363 million, including $14.3 million for "separation travel" once a servicemember is discharged, $17.8 million for training officers, $252.4 million for training enlistees and $79.3 million in recruiting costs.[135] The commission report stated that the GAO did not take into account the value the military lost from the departures.

Chaplains and religious groups

Chaplain groups and religious organizations are taking various positions concerning the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Some view that the policy must be withdrawn to make the military more inclusive. The Southern Baptist Convention is battling the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, warning that their endorsements for chaplains may be withdrawn if the repeal takes place.[136][137] They take the position that allowing gay men and women to serve in the military without restriction will have a negative impact on the ability of chaplains who think homosexuality is a sin to speak freely regarding their religious beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church has called for the retention of the policy, but has no plans to withdraw its priests from serving as military chaplains.[138] Sixty-five retired chaplains signed a letter opposing repeal, stating that repeal would make it impossible for chaplains whose faith teaches that same-sex behavior is immoral to minister to military servicemembers.[139] Other religious organizations and agencies call the repeal of the policy a "non-event" or "non-issue" for chaplains, claiming that chaplains have always supported military service personnel, whether or not they agree with all their actions or beliefs.[140][141][142]

See also

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  • Bérubé, Allan (1990). Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. New York, The Penguin Group. ISBN 0452265983 (Plume edition 1991).
  • Jones, Major Bradley K. (January 1973). "The Gravity of Administrative Discharges: A Legal and Empirical Evaluation" The Military Law Review 59:1–26.
  • Shilts, Randy (1993). Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. New York, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 031209261X

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