November 18th, 2008
06:15 PM ET
6 years ago

The end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The lead sponsor of a bill to overturn the controversial Don't Ask, Don't Tell law said the law could conceivably be passed in the first year of President-elect Obama's administration.

President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to lift the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

A transition office spokesman refused to comment for this story but two months ago, Obama signaled he would move cautiously, telling the Philadelphia Gay News newspaper he would first get the military on board:

"Although I have consistently said I would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I believe that the way to do it is to make sure that we are working through processes, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be," he said.

A bill to replace "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", with a policy of nondiscrimination, has 149 co-sponsors in the house, including California's Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat. Tauscher said with new administration, the timing is right to try and pass the bill.

"The key here is to get bills that pass the House and the Senate, that we can get to president-elect Obama to sign, and I think that we can do that, certainly the first year of the administration," Tauscher said in an interview with CNN.

Gay rights advocates say it's important for the new President to avoid the ham-fisted attempt President Clinton tried in 1993, when he naively promised to lift the ban by executive order.

That roiled the Pentagon brass - including then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell - and provoked a fierce backlash from conservatives in Congress.

As a result Congress stripped President Clinton of his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.

But after 15 years and four wars, attitudes in the Pentagon - and among the public - have changed dramatically.

A Washington Post-ABC news poll this summer found 75 percent of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly, compared to only 45 percent back in 1993.

More than 100 retired U.S. military leaders - including the former head of the Naval Academy - have signed a statement calling for an end to the military's "don't ask-don't tell" policy, according to a California-based think tank that supports the movement.

Retired Admiral Charles Larson, the former Naval Academy superintendent, tops the list of 104 retired general and admirals who want the government to repeal the policy, the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, announced Monday.


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soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. Clarence

    The present policy doesn't ban homosexuals from serving it as long as they don't flaunt their sexuality. They made a choice of lifestyles and sexual partners, that's their business. As a heterosexual Soldier I can't go around holding my wife's hand in uniform or being overtly affectionate in public. What homosexuals do behind closed doors are their business. Just like I keep my private sex life private homosexuals need to keep theirs the same.

    November 18, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  2. Anna, ATL

    How bizarre that Constitutional rights are soooo conditional...
    Full freedom to serve in the military; full freedom to form civil unions.

    but if I may....
    Leave the term 'marriage' out of it. The word is firmly grounded in religious principle. In fact, if it wasn't for man's belief in divine sovereignty over his sexuality, there probably wouldn't any concept of marriage. Ancient Rome had same-sex unions, but they didn't call it marriage.
    Believe it or not, there are a significant number of Americans (and others throughout the world of varyious faiths and sects) who still take the concept of marriage as a holy directive seriously, and I think as much as we can, others' values should be respected.

    Use of the word is not a civil rights issue, I am sorry to say.
    We have to live within the limits of each others' dignity.

    Forcing the Church to swallow gay marriage is like forcing restaurants in New Delhi to serve angus beef.

    If you need support for the right to openly express mutual affection and enjoy the same rights as married heterosexual couples, I am with you.
    But, please, call it something else.

    November 18, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  3. Bobby

    I'm in the military and for those of you who don't know, the military is full of wonderful, professional gay people. WE live, shower, and work alongside them as soldiers. The people who are posting this fearmongering, homophobic crap have never served in the military and are using those of us who have as puppets for their hate filled beliefs. Try actually serving in the military instead of just putting a yellow ribbon next to you "Bush Cheney 04" bumper sticker.

    November 18, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. Bobby

    I'm in the military and for those of you who don't know, the military is full of wonderful, professional gay people. WE live, shower, and work alongside them as soldiers. The people who are posting this fearmongering, homophobic crap have never served in the military and are using those of us who have as puppets for their hate filled beliefs. Try actually serving in the military instead of just putting a yellow ribbon next to you "Bush Cheney 04" bumper sticker.

    November 18, 2008 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  5. Mark

    I don't see a reason for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be changed. If it works, why not just leave it alone?

    The military is not the place to insert beliefs or politics. Whatever allows our military to do its job properly is what we should do. It doesn't matter what your views are concerning homosexuals. Keep those domestic. The military needs to be as good as it can be to do its job: protecting us. End of story.

    November 18, 2008 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  6. Air 1

    As a Soldier, I say let them serve. If they want to take the lousy pay,,the lousy food, being shot at and all of the other great thing that come with serving your country so the whiners and the others can go on these comments page and complain. Oh also remember that if you want to join that you will be underpaid and also that Pres elect Obama is discussing cutting the buget for the military by 25% and we are already below the national average in pay. So come ahead.

    November 18, 2008 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  7. Brad

    I just want to thank all of those in the military (and civilian who support the ban to be lifted. I have proudly served 15 years. I am the last you would suspect, I have been happily in a relationship most of my career. I would never flaunt it, but darn its so hard. You have no clue what is like to live such a dare I say LIE? I don't get to participate in the balls etc...and much of the military lifestyle. When this is lifted I promise to be hold myself to the same standard that any military person should be held to. Thank you

    November 18, 2008 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. Ray Fisher

    Next time ask the GIs, they thought it was lame from the start. If a troop cannot serve with gays they shouldn't be in the military since the military is merely a microchasm of life.

    November 18, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  9. Theo

    Thank you Anna, apparently one person understands the problems with something like this. Unfortunatly Anna, gay people will not just stop at a civil union. they want to be on the same "moral" page as those in a heterosexual couple. this means that Ministers would be unable to teach that homosexuality is a sin. not only that, this would be taught in our schools, teaching children that same sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage!

    November 18, 2008 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  10. Annjell

    This is sad, people here that are against Gays & Lesbians. How many of you sat and enjoyed when Madonna kissed Britney Spears? How many of you guys have the fantasy of having 2 women at the same time?
    It's sad that you want people to be like you! I am a straight female. I don't have a problem with people being who they are, I have a problem when I don't know who I am dealing with.

    I am not atheist, but I don't hang around so-called christians because of their attitudes. It would be recommended if you read "Plato's Republic," then go back and read the old chapter of the bible. There you will see the bible talking about the Greek philosophers.

    I do have a problem with christians trying to tell people how to live their lives – but offer no help when it's needed.
    1) anti-abortion, why aren't christians getting these babies, kids out of foster care, juvenile? Why are people crossing state lines to drop off kids in Nebraska?
    2)anti-gay/lesbian – these people suffer just like other minorities, and have to work just as hard to prove their just like anyone else. Besides, they are some of the best friends you could ever have.
    3)anti-minority – we are all human, people just come in different colors.
    4)anti-poor – yet, good enough to take advantage of the poor.
    5)jealous of Gay/Lesbian because they have relationships they enjoy being in, and wasn't forced in.

    One day, people filled with so much hatred will come to realize that it's the hate inside of you that will destroy your soul, and decent relationships with other people.

    November 18, 2008 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  11. Paul

    I think that DADT should be repealed as soon as possible. It is a very bigoted law. Gay people are just as brave, fit, and able to serve as straight people. Also, it shows great honor to defend a country that will not even give you basic civil rights. This situation is very similar to the segregation of African-Americans. Also, to the people with the religious arguments, AMERICA IS NOT A THEOCRACY! Equal rights for all!

    November 18, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  12. Change is coming...DEAL

    Michael Hsu.....you probably already have and don't know it genius.

    November 18, 2008 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. Army NCO

    I want to be very careful about what I say here. As someone who is profoundly grateful to be able to serve in the U.S. Army (16+ years), I have two points to make:
    1. The British Army is the one foreign Army I would be honored to serve with. They lifted the ban on homosexuality years ago. And they went one step further. They invited all the people that were discharged and still wnted to serve their country back into the ranks.
    2. There have been gay soldiers that I would trust my life with. Then there are straight soldiers that I wouldn't leave my wallet around or trust a secret with. With our current personnel demands, I would rather be in close quarters with a gay man than a thief or someone who would rape or beat a helpless human being, or sell gov't secrets or property.
    My only condition with gays and lesbians has been this: I will respect your sexuality so long as you respect mine. I am in my 40's and that has worked well for me and the gays and lesbians that I have worked with over the years.
    People that can't handle that kind of diversity in a professional environment may just have a little growing up to do.
    And by the way, how much courage does a soldier really have if he is afraid, in other words, not mature enough to be within inches of a gay person? What else will give him the creepy-jeebies? Is such a person mature enough to handle the kind of adversity we have volunteered to face when called upon?
    I know this will irk some people, but just a few thoughts

    November 18, 2008 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Marie Canada

    The problem doesn't lie with the gays the problem lies with the Evangelicals. These Jesus freaks have no concern about anything other than having everyone conform to warped and bigotted views.

    Wake up America and join the modern countries in the world where sexual orientation isn't an issue and the church is kept under control except for those who prey on the children in their congregations.

    November 18, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  15. Equality for All

    Everyone should be allowed to serve our country no matter what their sexual preference is.

    We have man and woman of african american, latino, asian, white and every other ethnicity serving and is time to move forward and allow any one willing to defent this great country of us.

    President Obama is the change we all were waiting for, from gay rights to civil rights to Equality for all.

    We are all created equal, why we must discriminate agains others, God loves everyone the same no matter what others tell you!

    November 18, 2008 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  16. lrockyb

    Whenever I hear so-called 'straight' guys worried about gay guys checking them out in the shower or hitting on them, I have to ask,"what makes you so sure that any gay guy would be interested in you?" Oh, you've probably heard about 'gay'dar. You know, gay guys can immediately spot other gay guys. Don' worry it doesn't exist. But of course you could give yourself away. But then again, I' not gay, so I couldn't care less who checks me out. And I'm capable of saying, "Thanks, but no thanks." Or you worried that you can't?

    November 18, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  17. Bill FT.Lewis

    I think that gays should be able to server in the military but not in all of the mos such as infantry. I know in my unit it would just create a lot of problems. Treat them like we treat the woman, we don’t let them in SF, Rangers and Infantry so I don’t think we should let an openly gay person in either.

    November 18, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  18. USAF Rocks!

    What!?!?!?!? I've been serving with gays for almost 20 yrs!!! Get the He!! outof here...... Why would any person care what sexual orientation their fellow service member is. Sexual orientation doesn't have anything to do with smarts or loyalty! I have seen many of closed lip gays serving our country with honor. I do not agree with the lifestyle but I was "born" straight and not gay. Yes...there are people who have a sexual identity problem. I had a guy who was gay as my room-mate. Guess what, he wasn't trying to have sex with me (nor did he for those who want to know). If I ever needed someone who "had my back" it was him. I didn't even need a "butt plate" issued to me.

    For all of those bigots out there...answer this question. "If you hate gays soooo much, wouldn't you want them to die on the battlefield so there would be less of "them?"

    Since I have been a grown up and left childish fears behind me. I have realized that a lot of things that I have learned as a child wasn't right. Isn't it time that we started growing up as a nation?

    November 18, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  19. Sapper

    I am an active duty service member, i have had to chapter soldiers out because they were gay – true he was probably using it as an excuse to not go to Iraq but thats on him. with the DADT lifted that can no longer be used as an excuse to not serve this great nation. My one request is that if you are openly gay and serving in the military that you follow the UCMJ on PDA in uniform, I do with my significant other.

    November 18, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  20. BWF

    I think it's ridiculous that people think that the Don't Ask Don't Tell law should not be removed. Gay people have been serving in the military for its whole history. The only difference is that people aren't allowed to be openly gay. This has nothing to do with whether or not it is morally wrong or right to be gay. That has nothing to do with a person's ability to follow orders and to be disciplined. I myself am Catholic and I believe in the teachings in the Bible. But nowhere does it say that someone who is gay should not be allowed to defend their country. The fact that this law was ever instated is simply ridiculous. It's about time it is repealed.

    November 18, 2008 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  21. Bryce

    I think a lot of the people on this thread don't really understand the issue. As a gay man I believe that most homosexual people within the military know that being open about there sexuality may make there career more difficult, and they are intelligent enough to know they would probably be discriminated against and hazed and would, therefore, probably choose to remain "in the closet" even if they could be open about their sexuality. The good thing about the changing of the DADT policy is that they wouldn't have to fear being fired.

    Also for all you guys who believe that every gay man would be "checking you out" in the shower or when your changing, I ask you how big is your ego? Do you really think that you are so good looking that everyone who is attracted to your gender would automaticaly be attracted to you? How hot do you think you are

    November 18, 2008 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  22. Steve In Long Beach, CA

    I'm a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, having served over 23 years. I'm Gay and have always been gay. I served with honor and dignignity.

    Gay doesn't mean pervert or sex fiend. Millions of gay people go to work everyday and do their job without any problems.

    In conversations I had with co-workers in the military almost all said that they would be ok with gays in the military as long as they act professional and do their job.

    Years ago, Blacks couldn't be trusted to serve along side whites and/or women weren't capable enough to serve along side men. Blacks and women have served for years (now) with pride and honor. Gays are just as capable and trustworthy.

    It's time for don't ask, don't tell to end.

    November 18, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  23. Pam Holt Los Angeles, CA

    It is high time! But there does need to be some protection for these brave soldiers against uneducated homophobes.

    November 18, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  24. Edgar

    keep the ban and don't see evil can't hear evil.

    November 18, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  25. Jake

    Well, I just want to say, that I know that there are plenty of gay men in the military. And I like it that way! They can serve our country, then hopefully I can service them!

    November 18, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
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