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Religious Tolerance logo

Gays in the U.S. Military

Attempts to repeal the "Don't ask,
don't tell" (DADT) policy: 2008 & 2009

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During 2008 and 2009, the debate largely remained dormant. A few developments were:

bullet2008-DEC: General Colin Powell favors review of DADT: Retired General Colin Powell, who was chairman of the joint chiefs of staffs in 1993 when DADT was implemented, said:

"It's been 15 years and attitudes have changed. And, so, I think it is time for the Congress, since it is their law, to have a full review of it. And I'm quite sure that's what President-elect Obama will want to do." 1

bullet2009-MAR-03: Book on DADT published: Nathanial Frank book author of the book: "Unfriendly Fire: How the gay ban undermines the military and weakens America," An excerpt reads:

"The story of the ongoing purges of gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines with language skills critical to waging the war on terrorism pits political expediency and moral dogma against national security, social scientific research and common sense. It is a story that shines a spotlight on certain truisms that Americans seem to grasp only when it's too late, and then to promptly forget until the next time it's too late: that prejudice is generally self-defeating rather than productive, and that it nearly always has unexpected consequences." 2

Frank has a Ph.D. in history from Brown University. He is a senior research fellow at the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an adjunct professor of history at New York University's Gallatin School. He maintains a blog on the topic of gays in the military. 3

bullet2009-JUN-09: DADT reaches the U.S. Supreme Court: The court decided to not review a lawsuit challenging the military's DADT policy. Both the Obama administration and some gay rights groups had asked the court not to take the case because it would interfere with the administration's plans on changing or repealing the policy. 4

bullet2009-JUN-16: NPR broadcasts program on DADT: Nathanial Frank. author of the book: "Unfriendly Fire: How the gay ban undermines the military and weakens America," was interviewed on National Public Radio. You can listen to the program or download it from the NPR website. 5

bullet2009-JUN-26: Agitation for change: Gregory Herek posted a note on his blog "Beyond Homophobia." 6 He wrote:
"Last month the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara released a new report showing how the President can legally suspend discharges of gay and lesbian personnel in advance of congressional action to permanently repeal DADT. (Full disclosure: I’m a coauthor of that report; my main contribution was to the section on how to effectively implement a new, nondiscriminatory policy.)"

"Earlier this week, 77 members of Congress sent an open letter to the President, urging him to suspend investigations and discharges of service members in the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation.  'By taking leadership of the important issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), 'President Obama would allow openly gay and lesbian service members to continue serving their country and send a clear signal to Congress to initiate the legislative repeal process'."

"And Wednesday, the Center for American Progress issued a five-step plan for repealing DADT that begins with an executive order suspending discharges."

bullet2009-JUN-29: President Obama pledges to end DADT: At a White House ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots -- the police attack that triggered the gay liberation movement -- President Obama pledged his effort to end DADT, to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to fulfill other campaign promises leading to equality for LGBTs. He said:
"I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security ... Ending the policy requires an act of Congress and will take time." 7
His statement appears to be literally true. To end the policy permanently would require Congressional action. However, other sources say that while waiting for such an action, President Obama could suspend DADT for the rest of his term in office.

bullet2009-JUL-06: Chairmen of Joint Chiefs of Staff favors DADT change: Admiral Mike Mullen, the top military office in the U.S., has advised President Obama to move "in a measured way" to change the DADT policy. Interviewed on CNN's "State of the Nation" he said:

"It's very clear what President Obama's intent here is. He intends to see this law change. I've had conversations with him about that. What I've discussed in terms of the future is I think we need to move in a measured way. ... I haven't done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my - give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently indicated that his lawyers are looking for ways in which the existing DADT law can be selectively enforced in order to find "a more humane way" of applying it. 8

bullet2009-JUL-24: Harbinger of DADT change? Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) joined the supervisory board at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. This is very unusual appointment by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because if Polis were a student at the Academy, he would be instantly discharged on the grounds that he is openly gay. Another interesting factor is the strong fundamentalist/evangelical Christian atmosphere at the Academy that is hardly welcoming for persons of minority sexual orientations and identities. Observers on both sides of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell debate speculate that Polis' appointment may be a sign of forthcoming change. Polis himself expects that Congress will start debating a repeal of DADT as soon as this fall. He said: "We expect that to end shortly and I look forward to being a value to the Academy in making the transition. 9

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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. "Leonard Matlovich," at:
  2. Nathaniel Frank, "Unfriendly Fire: How the gay ban undermines the military and weakens America," Thomas Dunne Books, (2009). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store The review concludes: "This lively and compelling narrative is sure to make the blood boil of any American who cares about national security, the right to speak the truth, or just plain common sense and fairness." All 15 reviewers gave the book 5 stars out of a maximum of 5. This website receives a 6.5% commission on sales, for which we are very grateful. Alternately, you can order it via the National Public Radio website and help support NPR programming. See: "Purchase" box at:
  3. Nathaniel Frank, "Blueprints for sound public policy," at:
  4. Robert Barnes, "Court Ties Campaign Largess to Judicial Bias," Washing Post, 2009-JUN-09, at:
  5. "Turning 'Unfriendly Fire' On U.S. Military's Gay Ban," NPR, 2009-JUN-16, at:
  6. Gregory Herek, "Public opinion supports repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'," Beyond Homophobia, 2009-JUN-26, at:
  7. Kevin Canessa Jr., "Obama: I'll Work to Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' for Military Members," DiversityInc., 2009-JUN-30, at:
  8. "Mullen advises 'measured' approach to gay policy," Associated Press, 2009-JUL-05, at:
  9. Kristen Wyatt & Associated Press, "1st Openly Gay Member Joins Air Force Board," 2009-JUL-24, at:

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

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Copyright © 2008 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-DEC
Latest update: 2010-FEB-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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