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Religious Tolerance logo

Gays in the U.S. Military

Modifying/repealing the "Don't Ask,
Don't Tell" (DADT) policy: 2005-2007

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Recent opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy:

President Clinton announced the DADT policy in 1993-JUL. It tolerated lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGVTs) in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation and identity secret. That is, they could stay as long as they hid in the closet. Since then, there have been suggestions and actions to repeal the policy and let LGBTs freely serve.

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Some events were:

bullet2005-MAR: House bill introduced: Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA) introduced a House bill: the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005. 1 Its intent was to replace DADT with a new, non-discriminatory policy:

"The Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Navy, may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation against any member of the armed forces or against any person seeking to become a member of the armed forces."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), a member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations said:

"We've tried the [DATA] policy. I don't think it works. And we've spent a lot of money enforcing it. People who've signed up to serve our country, we should be thanking them."

Four Republican representatives -- including conservative Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland -- joined with 81 Democrats as co-sponsors. Gilchrest used to be in favor of the ban, but changed his mind because of respect for gay Marines with whom he served in Vietnam. Another influence is his brother, who is gay. He feels that the mood in Congress is shifting. He said:

"When this issue comes up, members who believe that gays shouldn't be in the military are now more hesitant to voice their opinion. Many of us who feel the other way have come out of the closet, so to speak. A year ago, I would have been uncomfortable expressing my feelings."  2,3

The bill eventually accumulated 122 cosponsors. It was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services, and to its subcommittee on Military Personnel. It did not proceed.
 

bullet2005-JUN-13: SLDN report issued: The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) issued a new report noting that many highly trained military specialists -- including combat engineers and linguists -- are being discharged involuntarily because of their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, the Pentagon "... is facing extreme challenges in recruiting and retaining troops." Their report states that:

"The military discharged 653 men and women in 2004 under the gay ban, the second lowest total since 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was implemented. The Pentagon discharges include at least 41 healthcare professionals, 30 sonar and radar specialists, 20 combat engineers, 17 law enforcement agents, 12 security guards and 7 biological and chemical warfare specialists who were fired because of sexual orientation. At least 9 language specialists were also discharged. The SLDN analysis also reveals that, based on other data obtained from different sources, less than one-quarter of all 2004 discharges under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' were from units deployed in support of war operations, suggesting the services are far less likely to discharge gays and lesbians serving on the frontlines. Gay discharges have declined by 47% since September 11, 2001."

SLDN Executive Director, C. Dixon Osburn, said:

"The military continues to sacrifice national security and military readiness in favor of simple prejudice. Americans do not care if the helicopter pilot rescuing a wounded soldier or the medic treating that soldier is gay." 4,3

bullet2005-JUN-14: Comments on an article in army paper: Lt. Col. Allen Bishop, a U.S. Military Academy professor of philosophy at West Point, had been troubled for years about the ban. In the spring of 2005, he wrote an article against the ban in the Army Times. On JUN-14, he said:

"I thought I'd get lots of hate mail, and my colleagues would walk on the other side of the hall ? but there's been none of that.....They can be gay, but they can't practice being gay. They can be here, but they can't tell you who they are ? it seemed pretty confusing to me."

His article said in part:

"Despite our government's claim of liberty for all, we leave homosexuals out. If the American military sees and is allowed to see itself as the protector of some but not all Americans, democracy fails." 3

bullet2005-JUL-8: Lawsuit launched in federal court: During the twelve years had passed since DADT was announced, nearly 10,000 members of the military had been dismissed on the basis of their sexual orientation. During that time, nine lawsuits have been filed: Six failed and three are pending.

Twelve former service members launched the newest lawsuit against the policy seeking to overturn it and to be reinstated. Included were six men and six women who represented every branch of the armed services except for the Marines. The case is known as "Cook vs. RumsfeldIt" and cites the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared all state anti-sodomy laws to be unconstitutional across the U.S. The Bush administration asked U.S. District Judge George A. O'Toole Jr. to dismiss the case, arguing that "courts should not second-guess congressional judgment." The case will be heard in a Boston, MA federal court during 2005-JUL. 3,5

Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Quinlivan said: "You cannot re-litigate questions that were reasonably reviewed by the legislative branch." He argued that the ban reduced "... sexual tensions and promoted personal privacy."

Stuart Delery, the plaintiffs' attorney, argued that DADT violated the veterans' rights to free speech, privacy, and equal protection under the law.

The case did not proceed.

bullet2006-MAY: General calls for end to DADT policy: Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Ret.), the first female three-star officer in Army history, called the DADT: "a hollow policy that serves no useful purpose." 6
 
bullet2006-NOV: Senior military officers recommend end to ban: Fourteen senior retired military officers urged the First Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the DADT ban. They wrote that the law:

"... undermines the military's ability to fulfill its primary mission of providing national security by discouraging the enlistment of gay persons qualified to serve their country and by expelling from the military those who have served with honor." 6/b>

Retired Army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili wrote:

"Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers."

bullet2007-JAN: General John M. Shalikashvili suggested review of ban: Shalikashvili, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, recommending a reconsideration of the DADT policy. He wrote:

"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. ... 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." 6

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The "Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005," Thomas, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
  2. "New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Allowing Gays to Serve," Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 2005-MAY-16, at: http://www.sldn.org/
  3. "Efforts Intensify to End Gay Soldier-Ban," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-14, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  4. "New Data Reveals Military Losing Mission Critical Specialists Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'," Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 2005-JUN-13, at: http://www.sldn.org/
  5. Elizabeth Mehren, "U.S. Sued on Anti-Gay Military Policy," Los Angeles Times, 2009-JUL-09, at: http://www.commondreams.org/
  6. "General Wants Gay Ban Lifted," Military.com, 2007-JAN-03, at: http://www.military.com/

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Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > Challenges > DADT > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-16
Latest update: 2009-JUN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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