Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the official United States policy on gays serving in the military since December 21, 1993, officially ended on September 20, 2011. DADT was actually repealed by Congress last December, but enforcement was permitted until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that repeal “would not harm military readiness”. Can you imagine requiring such certification and waiting periods when Truman issued an Executive Order ending segregation in the military? In any event, all certifications were completed by July and the mandated 60-day waiting period ended on September 20th.
Although homosexual men in the military faced recriminations since the Revolutionary War, they were not officially banned from service until after World War II. Warm bodies of any orientation were needed during wars. Through the years, openly gay service members faced severe discrimination and abuse, and were subject to dishonorable discharge, confinement in mental institutions and/or courts martial.
Bill Clinton campaigned on a promise to end the military’s ban on gay personnel, but after he was elected his proposal met intense opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, members of Congress from both political parties, and a large part of the public. As a compromise, Congress reached an agreement known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” and it became law. Military personnel would not be asked about their sexual orientation and would not be discharged simply for being gay. They could be gay but not act gay. Engaging in homosexual or lesbian activities were still grounds for dismissal.
The growing LGBT movement along with the revelation that the military discharged 20 Arabic and 6 Farsi linguists between 1998 and 2004 because they were gay greatly heightened the call to repeal DADT. President Obama campaigned on a promise to repeal the law and it was fiercely opposed by Congressional Republicans led by John “Faust” McCain, Lindsay Graham and entrenched military leaders. Many of the fiercest opponents of repeal were either sell-outs to the far right wing or self-haters afraid of their own ambiguous sexual identity. (Watch reruns of Glee featuring the football bully.) Those who want to keep government out of our lives are okay with it intruding on our lives when it concerns a woman’s choice or what goes on between consenting adults.
With the repeal of DADT, all qualified men and women can now choose to serve and protect our national security. The US is no longer the only industrialized country banning LGBT individuals from serving openly in the military.
Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary hopes to get more comments on the SPS blog than she received on the community/political blog that she created and maintained from 2002 to 2004.