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Religious Tolerance logo

The U.S. military's "Don't ask, Don't tell" (DADT) policy

After 2011-SEP-20: Various reactions
following the repeal of DADT: Part 2

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"LGB" is an acronym that refers to lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

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This is a continuation of the previous essay

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2011-SEP: Reactions after the repeal of the DADT policy (Cont'd):

Military poll on the acceptance of the DADT repeal:

The military has gone through three main cultural changes involving an abandonment of discrimination:

  • The start of an end to racism when President Truman wiped out racial "segregation in [the] armed forces." 1
  • The start of an end to sexism when President Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Act of 1948 which allowed women to serve in fully integrated units during peacetime. As of 2011-SEP, they are still excluded from serving on submarines. However a plan is underway to remove this restriction. 2
  • The start to an end to homophobia occurred on 2011-SEP-20 when the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was formally repealed.

Support for repeal of DADT in the military  3  The Military Times Poll has been asking service members the question : "Should gays be allowed to serve openly in the military." The big dips in the year 2008 may have been caused by a change in the question to: whether respondents supported President-elect Barack Obama's call to repeal "don't ask, don’t tell." It may be that any question with "Obama" in it will automatically receive less favorable response.

This demonstrates how important it is for polling agencies to select a question carefully, and stick with it year by year.

Unfortunately some religious organizations' web sites have some very creative ways of interpreting polls in ways that reverse the meaning of the data. This has appeared with polls involved in same-sex marriage (SSM) where most adults in a liberal state will suddenly be reported as being opposed to SSM. It has apparently appeared with DADT polling data as well. 4 We recommend that when you read interpretations of polling data on religious web sites -- conservative and liberal -- that you look up the original data and compare them with the interpretation. It is often good training in logic.

The most recent national polls of the general American public shows that support for the repeal to DADT rose from 44% in 1993 to 77% in 2010-DEC. Even the Navy and Air Force have quite a distance to go to reach 77% approval rating.

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The battle continues for full equality:

Same-sex married spouses will receive some benefits from the military, included the possibility of being made a beneficiary to the service member's life insurance plan, and as a caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.

However, even as many social and religious conservatives are complaining that LGBT individuals in the military are receiving "special privileges" that are not enjoyed by straight folk, it is becoming obvious that LGBTs still have a long way to go to reach equality.

Sexual discrimination continues. Some are simply because of military regulations, but many more because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA prohibits the federal government and its agencies from recognizing marriages legally solemnized in the District of Columbia and in those states which recognize same-sex marriages. Certain benefits that are automatically given to opposite-sex married couples are denied same-sex married couples. For example, the latter will not receive military health insurance, access to a support group when their spouse is away on duty, and many other benefits. 5

The DOMA law has been declared unconstitutional in a number of federal courts since it clearly violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, it is still being implemented by the Obama Administration because it is federal law and has neither been repealed nor has it been declared unconstitutional yet by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mother Jones magazine reports that opposite-sex married couples obtain special privileges that same-sex married couples are denied. They include:

  • "Health care benefits,
  • Help finding employment,
  • Financial assistance that eases the difficulty of moving and paying for a new home.
  • Additional pay given to partners when a service member is given an assignment that prevents his or her family from coming along.
  • Access to family-support services provided by the military that often serve as crucial conduits of information regarding what forms of assistance are available and how to take advantage of them.
  • When a service member is killed in the line of duty, their same-sex partner will be denied the same financial support that opposite-sex partners receive. Unless the two had children together, the partner may not even be the first to know about the death. 6

Laurence Watts, whose long-term partner is in the Navy, said: "We still have to go through the sacrifice of giving up jobs, houses, families and friends. But we don't get the safety net that's there to make sure that kind of responsibility doesn't drive you crazy."

The Mother Jones article also mentions that:

  • "Alex Nicholson, a former Army Intelligence Officer who is now the Executive Director of the gay and lesbian service member advocacy group Servicemembers United, said that the Defense Department could do more despite the legal barriers erected by DOMA. "They're not going as far as they could," Nicholson says. "There's more that they could do even before DOMA is repealed. ..."

  • A Defense Department spokesperson said that [Department of Defense] DOD was looking into extending more benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian service members, including access to Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facilities, which would allow them to utilize things like swimming pools, golf courses, and restaurants normally offered to families of service members on bases."

  • Because of DOMA, current DOD regulations states that only "dependents" can get military IDs. This means that unless they have a dependent child "... the same-sex spouse or partner of a service member doesn't have the access to base housing, commissaries, or base exchanges that their straight counterparts do."

Dr. Aaron Belkin, author of "How We Won: Progressive Lessons From the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," 7 believes that the end of the DADT policy will accelerate and end DOMA as well in the near future. He said:

"If you look at the countries around the world that have marriage equality, the lifting of the military ban almost always comes first. [It] sends a very powerful message that it's wrong to discriminate, ... that gays and lesbians are first-class citizens, and deserve the same rights as everybody else." 6

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2011-OCT-02: President Obama celebrates the end of the DADT policy:

He addressed the annual gala dinner of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in Washington DC. The HRC is the largest LGBT rights organization in the U.S.

He said:

"We believe in an equal America that values the service of every patriot. ... We believe in a big America. A tolerant America. An equal America that values the service of every patriot. 'E pluribus unum' - out of many, one. And that includes everybody. ... Every single American -- gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender -- deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It's a pretty simple proposition. ... We have a ways to go in the struggle."

He noted that because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, some Americans still feet like second-class citizens, have to lie to keep their jobs, and are afraid to walk openly down the street.

In an apparent reference to a recent televised debate among Republican presidential candidates, he noted that the participants remained silent when a soldier's question about the don't ask, don't tell policy was  met with boos from the audience. Obama said:

"You want to be commander in chief, you can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States."

The first president to address a HRC national dinner was Bill Clinton in 1977. The second was Barack Obama. No Republican president has ever attended the dinner. 8

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A gay sailor reinlists:

Lee Reinhart serviced in the U.S. Navy from 1995 to 1999. After 9/11, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard but was quickly discharged under the DADT policy. He was subsequently active for ten years working with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and other civil rights workers to repeal DADT. Reinhart became the first openly gay service member from Illinois to reinlist after the repeal of DADT.

Rep. Quigley recalls:

""We should be proud of Lee and proud of our country. Dr. King had it right: 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' This is our country getting it right. ... My earliest memories of him are testifying in front of groups like this about why this matters, and why he wanted to serve. It was voices like yours, Lee, that helped change policy to make our country greater."

After the ceremony, Reinhart said:

"The most important thing about this day for me, is that my nieces and my nephew will grow up and hopefully realize their uncle had a small part of this history-making part of their country. I want them to know when they read the history books that their uncle had a part in that."

His former shipmate Chief Warrant Officer Mike Landry said, during an interview:

"This is really a nonissue for the military now. Right wing politicians have made it a big deal, but it really has been nothing to the military. I haven't heard any of the senior chain of command flinch at it. I haven't heard anybody from the younger troops complain about it." 9

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A side topic: same-sex marriage on military bases is discussed next

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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. "President Harry Truman Wipes Out Military Segregation," Library of Congress, at:
  2. "Women in the military by country: United States," as on 2011-SEP-15, at:
  3. "Military Times Poll 2011," at:
  4. "Mike," "DADT Poll detractors can’t do basic math,", 2010-DEC-06, at:
  5. Wilson Ring, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal: Navy Lt. Gary Ross, Partner Dan Swezy Wed As Military's Gay Ban Formally Ends," Associated Press, 2011-SEP-21, at:
  6. Adam Serwer, "There's More to Equality Than Asking and Telling," Mother Jones magazine, 2011-SEP-20, at:
  7. Image of book cover Dr. Aaron Belkin, author, "How We Won: Progressive Lessons From the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Kindle eBook edition. Read reviews and/or order this book safely from
  8. Katherine Skiba, "Obama celebrates end of 'don't ask, don't tell' at Human Rights Campaign dinner," Sacramento Bee, 2011-OCT-02, at:
  9. Erica Demarest, "Chicago veteran of Don't Ask, Don't Tell reenters military in wake of repeal," Windy City Times, 2011-OCT-24?, at:

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

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-SEP-24
Latest update: 2011-OCT-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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