November 18th, 2008
06:15 PM ET
10 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of his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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. David

    Don't that just eat your butt rednecks. Obama is going to give Homosexuals guns to fight but take yours away.

    November 18, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  2. Dorothy in NC

    It is time for people to come to grips with the gay issue. Like it or not there are millions of homosexuals. They teach our children, work in hospitals, represent us in court, serve us in restaurants, fight fires, fight crime, work in factories & stores and they also risk their lives serving in the United States military.
    I have enough trouble minding my own business and it is time that people do the same. What you do in your bedroom with a consenting adult is none of my business. I know gay couples that have been together for 30 years, They raised their children, paid their taxes, cried when they were sad and laughed when they were happy.
    They are people, folks. Just like you.

    November 18, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. Desert Storm Vet

    Rangers in the night exchanging azimuths, somewhere in the night....

    November 18, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. Annjell

    Finally, we get a president that understands the American People. Go Obama. We need to stop discrimination against everyone. This is America.

    November 18, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  5. David in Georgia

    It's about time. It is never justifiable to discriminate against any American citizen no matter what excuse is used.


    November 18, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  6. Former Repub Old White Female

    People don't give soldiers enough credit. these aren't the soldiers of the 80's, this isn't yesterdays army. My husband is active duty military and currently deployed to Iraq. I have been to the family meetings within his unit. I have met almost all of his soldiers. These are for the most part, smart, down-to-earth, relaxed, dedicated soldiers. They don't care who is gay or lesbian. There are some gay/lesbian members of my husbands unit. We all know who they are, they know that we know. Guess what, other than a few immature soldiers fresh out of high-school, no-one cares!!!!! Don't ask, Don't tell, is a Clinton leftover. It is outdated, and treats soldiers as if they are too dumb to know right from wrong when it comes to how they treat others. Sure some soldiers will treat others wrongly because of their sexual preference, but how is that any different from society in general? There are immature homophobic people everywhere, the military included, but these soldiers are smarter than people think. I should know, I am married to one!

    November 18, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. JR in PA

    It's more than about time. Gays have been serving in the military as long as there has been a military. It's shameful that we make them hide their orientation – and criminally dangerous when we remove translators of critical languages from the service because they're gay. Dozens of Arabic translators were discharged before and after 9-11 because of their sexual orientation.

    What most people don't know is that the military has perverted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to have more gays discharged than before its inception.

    Those who have a problem with openly gay troops are much like Sgt. Schultz of Hogan's Heroes, preferring to "see nothing," rather than acknowledge how many of our servicemen and women are oriented toward the same gender. Rather than continuing to fool yourselves, let's let these heroes stand as tall in their uniforms as everyone else.

    November 18, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. Michael Hsu

    Hell no! We won't serve with gays!

    November 18, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  9. Veteran

    Here we go with the extreme liberal left ideas of Hussein Obama wanting to allow gays to openly serve in the military. The article gives the impression that the US Military is for removing the ban. I'm sure there are just as many, if not more, former military leaders who are opposed to the idea but once again, the left meida doesn't include those numbers. As a veteran of 25 years of the US Air Force, I hope the Joint Chiefs of Staff stand up to Hussein Obama on this issue and tell him how bad of an idea it is. It won't work and the men and women of our military don't deserve, when put in a life or death situation, to have to rely on someone who would rather cut hair or design clothes to be their back in a wartime situation.

    November 18, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  10. John in MI

    Its about time that it was lifted!

    November 18, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  11. Matt T

    If the sexuality of the man or woman in uniform who has your back matters to you, then you deserve to become a casualty.

    November 18, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  12. Soldier currently in Iraq

    I am sure windbag, attention cravers, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson will have something less than intelligent to say about this. Here comes the Christian right, preaching the same right-wing nutjob junk that lost them the election.

    November 18, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  13. thomas

    The end of "don't ask, don't tell" is the beginning of "never mention this again", thank you.

    November 18, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  14. Vicky, MS

    Thank God this antiquated way of thinking will go away. Let the men and women concentrate on the job at hand, and nothing else.

    Obama and Biden will make a sensible team.

    November 18, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  15. Texas Teacher

    Seriously..... what is the difference between serving in the closet or out? Regardless, it's the same job.... they lay their lives on the line just like anyone else! And I doubt they are so desparate to corrupt those who are not interested!!! *LOL*

    It's the Christian Right's idea that men and women are so easily corrupted! Makes one wonder if they are very secure in their sexuality? 🙂

    Same thing with same sex marriage. I can't understand being so terrified of what other people are doing! If my neighbor gets a divorce, does that mean I am bound to get one? This so called corruption business is catching. Are married couples, Christian married couples, afraid that if marriage is legal for gays that their spouse will bolt and run for it?! *LOL* Seriously.... sounds like paranoia to me. How else would it impact them?

    November 18, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  16. PDX Gal

    Long overdue. Equal is equal.

    November 18, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. zgomer

    we don't need the gays and lesbians in the military, it would just create a problem with the straights, it is just a way for people from CA (thats where these "officials" are from) to keep trying to bum rush the straight people. Keep them out!

    November 18, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. David Bradley

    I am totaly opesed to having gays in the Military.I was molested buy my division officer wile serving in Vietnam I went to his supearor and told him what happend and he told me it would be my word againest his and he being an officer they would believe him befor they would belive me only an enlisted man.This has had an efect on me most of my life and he did it several times I will never get any resolve for happend when I was 20 years old.I have nothing againest Gay persons but I do have an problem when some one takes advantage on some one for there own plesher.

    November 18, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  19. mitch

    i'll believe it when i see it.

    November 18, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  20. zgomer

    The rump rangers would love it! No way do we want or need it!

    November 18, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  21. zgomer

    The pink tutu's still try to come in the back door huh! Keep them out!

    November 18, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  22. Tom

    We've had gays in the military since we've had a military. After all, Baron von Steuben of Valley Forge fame brought with him a 16-year-old boy as his "interpreter." The lad did not speak English. Many other nations allow gays to serve without hiding their identity and without harming unit effectiveness. So maybe we can stop being hypocritical and let the military get on with doing its job. (But Desert Storm's comment is funny.)

    November 18, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  23. sergey

    hypocrisy, we would not let them get married, but would let them in the military

    November 18, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  24. PDX Gal

    Equal is Equal. If only homophobic veterans knew how many gay vets saved their you-know-whats when they served together!!

    You think that just because they are in the closet that they don't exist?!?! Wrong. They were your friends and they had your back.

    And you had theirs.

    Until now.

    November 18, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  25. jaime

    Our country preaches equality, it's about time we stop being hypocritical.
    It's about time Don't Ask Don't Tell is eliminated.

    November 18, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
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