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Religious Tolerance logo

Gays in the U.S. Military: Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy

Intro: Quotations. Political cartoon.
Other countries. Hate crimes.

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bullet "[H]omosexuals have privately served well in the past and are continuing to serve well today." General Colin Powell, at a Senate hearing in 1993.
bullet Affirms the "incompatibility of homosexuality with military service." GOP platform, 2004.  Affirms that "homosexuality is
incompatible with military service." GOP platform, 2008. 1
bullet "Sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter, and homosexual orientation is not a bar to continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct." Department of Defense Directive 1332.14 (1994)
bullet "The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays [in the military]." Barry M Goldwater, former senator, AZ 2
bullet "... the [DADT] policy caused its own kind of damage to military readiness. Thousands of service members have been discharged from duty at a time when the military is stretched by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The loss of highly skilled interpreters and intelligence analysts has been especially damaging." 3
bullet Comments by Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, USAF:
bullet "I'm intensely proud to be gay and you should be, too. Unless we state our case, we'll continue to be robbed of our role models, our heritage, our history, and our future." 4
bullet "The epitaph he chose is still as fresh as today's headlines: 'When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one'." Associated Press. 4
bullet His gravestone also has two pink triangles, an identification marker that was used by the German Nazis to identify homosexuals in their concentration/extermination camps. Beneath the triangles are the words "Never again. Never forget."
bullet "The Pope is wrong. I am not 'intrinsically evil'. We are a moral people! We will do everything we can to make this world a better place. We are letting our love and voices be heard." Protest during Pope John Paul's 1987 visit to San Francisco, CA.

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Chan Lowe, an editorial cartoonist with the Sun-Sentinel in Southern Florida, created the following political cartoon critical of the DADT policy:

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Policies in other countries:

In the past, gays and lesbians were not permitted in any of the armed forces in the West. Most countries have abandoned their anti-gay policies in recent years, as mental health professionals determined that a homosexual orientation is fixed, and unchosen, a normal and natural orientation for a minority of adults, and not a mental illness. Among the armies in the Western industrialized world, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the UK allow gays and lesbians to serve freely and openly. 5

The last hold-outs within NATO were/are:

bullet Great Britain: The Amsterdam Treaty grants the European Union (EU):

"... the power to take appropriate action to combat discrimination. The possible grounds of intervention are discrimination based on sex, race or ethnic origin, religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation." 6

This treaty applies to the UK, which is a member state of the EU. Great Britain was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights on 1999-SEP-27 for violating the human rights of four military personnel. They had been dismissed because of their sexual orientation. The ruling said, in part:

"Those negative attitudes could not, of themselves, justify the interferences in question any more than similar negative attitudes towards those of a different race, origin or colour."

The UK now permits gays and lesbians to serve freely. 7

bullet Turkey: This country continues to bar homosexuals from their Armed Forces. However, Turkey is attempting to join the European Union (EU). If and when they do join, they will probably be required to change their policies in a number of areas, including the elimination of the death penalty and the acceptance of persons of all sexual orientations in their armed forces.
bullet United States: As of 2010-SEP, the armed forces still have the Don't ask, Don't tell (DADT) policy in place. However, on SEP-09, a U.S. district court has ruled that it violates three clauses of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, and is thus unconstitutional.

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The personal battle of Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenback:

Ferenbach was a F-15 fighter pilot who spent 18 years in the USAF. The military spent about $25 million to train him. He was part of the initial alert crew immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks; he served in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq. He logged more than 2,000 flying hours, 1,500 fighter hours, and 400 combat hours. He received 9 air medals including one for heroism. Just two years from being able to retire with a full Air Force pension, he was informed in 2008-MAY that he would be discharged under the DADT policy.

Ferenbach initially thought that he would accept an honorable discharge. He later changed his mind. He said: "... the more I thought about it, about how wrong this policy is, I thought that I had to fight and perhaps with my unique perspective, I could speak out and help other people in the meantime." He was encouraged that President Obama might implement his promise to change the DADT policy shortly after his election. However, it was not to be.

Ferenbach took a considerable risk in challenging DADT. By doing so he would certainly lose the case and might receive a dishonorable discharge with no benefits.

Rachel Maddow interviewed Fehrenback on MSNBC on 2009-MAY-19:

Visit for Breaking News , World News , and News about the Economy

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Hate crimes law:

Pfc. Barry Winchell at Ft. Campbell, KY was murdered on 1999-JUL-5 because of his sexual orientation. Three months later, President Clinton issued an executive order which amended the Manual for Courts-Martial. It had been on his desk for over a year before it was signed. The order provides for an increase in sentencing for military personnel found guilty of committing hate crimes, based on race, gender, sexual orientation and/or disability.

Bills have been before Congress that would extend existing hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation, gender and disability. Past versions of the bill were been regularly vetoed by President Bush. On 2009-OCT-28, a decade after the first bill was introduced, a hate crimes bill was passed into law during President Obama's administration. It is worth noting that the law will protect persons of all sexual orientations, including heterosexuals and bisexuals -- not simply gays and lesbians.

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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. "GOP platform comparison," Focus on the Family, at:
  2. Barry M. Goldwater, "Ban on gays is senseless attempt to stall the inevitable." at:
  3. "The ban on gays in the military," Editorial, New York Times, 2009-JUN-09, at:
  4. "Don't ask, don't tell," Wikipedia as at: 2009-JUN-09, at:
  5. Homo Base, in operation since 1995, bills itself as the first Internet web site for gay service members. Their home page is at: A valuable research page with many links to other support web sites is at: 
  6. "The ABC of the European Union - citizenship: Fundamental rights," at:
  7. "Judgements in the Cases of Lustig-Prean and Beckett v. The United Kingdom and Smith and Grady v. The United Kingdom, European Court of Human Rights," (1999) See:
  8. Ben Armbruster, "Decorated fighter pilot fought DADT discharge hoping Obama would end the policy," 2009-MAY-20, at:

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Site navigation:

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

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Copyright © 2000 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAR-16
Latest update: 2010-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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