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his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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

    The military has usually lead the way in opening doors for those who's civil rights are stamped upon (ending segregation, etc). We've lagged in this area for far too long. A gay troop can squeeze a trigger or fly a plane just like a straight one. Let em' serve while living their life openly. Conversely, let the bigots leave...we don't need em' serving with us. You hinder our mission. It's about time we move past the backward ways of old. Thanks, President-elect Obama. It'll be a pleasure to serve under you.

    November 18, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. JR in PA

    Michael Hau, if you're in the military, you ARE serving with gays. You just don't know who they are, since they can't "tell."

    November 18, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  3. Jen

    That would be great!!
    Gays/ Lesbians/ Bi already serve in the military, it is about time that they get the respect they deserve for risking their lifes for this country.
    It is, however, long over due.

    November 18, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  4. Dan

    I saw this today and had to share my thoughts. It's not a political statement but of religious tolerance.

    Newt Gingrich said: "There is a gay and secular fascism in this country."

    Then this:
    A sign outside the Spirit One Center in Wichita, Kansas reads: "America We Have A Muslim President. This Is A Sin Against The Lord."

    It shows you how backwards and dividing people can be. First of all, Obama is not a Muslim. And if he was, as Colin Powell stated, there are many Muslims that are US citizens that have died for our country while in the armed services. For people in churches like this one, to advertise themselves as "Christians," they are total hypocrites.

    It's also interesting to me how Sarah Palin relates to people like this. SHE THINKS HUMANS EXISTED ALONG WITH DINOSAURS AT THE SAME TIME 4000 YEARS AGO! AND SHE HAS USED A WITCH DOCTOR TO CAST OUT EVIL SPIRITS!

    How do I look at the Bible and religion?

    Should the Bible being taken literally or figuratively? Take Mark 9:42-48, which tells Christians if their hand or foot "offends" them, they should "cut it off," and if their eye "offends" them, they should "pluck it out." If you take this literally, you would engage in self-mutilation. Clearly, this interpretation is nonsensical! On the other hand, if the believer says he does not take the Bible literally, then the skeptic will retort that the believer has implied that the Bible means whatever the believer wants it to mean. Hence, any person’s interpretation is as good—or poor—as anyone else’s. There are PLENTY of other examples. Do I believe, literally, that Noah took 2 of everything (worms, tadpoles, etc.) on his ark-NO. I was raised a Catholic and am a Christian but I have common sense also.

    PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE THINGS LIKE THAT OR THINK OBAMA IS A MUSLIM ARE FANATICS AND KOOKS! WAKE UP-THE EARTH IS MORE THEN 4-6 THOUSAND YEARS OLD AND WE DIDN'T LIVE WITH DINOSAURS! IT'S TIME FOR THESE RELIGIOUS FANATICS TO GET OUT OF OUR GOVERNMENT.

    Hopefully, a period of tolerance is here and we can, together, try to solve the many problems this country is facing. I'm so tired of hearing the hatred, bigotry and division because people may not believe what other's believe. We should be able to tolerate everyone. Our country is a melting pot and needs to be governed in that way. Hope everyone is doing well-be happy and healthy.

    November 18, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  5. Matthew PA

    How bout we ask the military if they want this? I'd guess 70-30 for Don't Ask Don't Tell. The concern for the implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was to ensure morale in the military. This should not change unless the military sees to it that it will not affect troop morale. No need to mess with the psyche of the military in a time of war.

    November 18, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. DOCS 3

    GET RID OF THESE MILITARY LAWS. THIS ONE THAT SHOULD BE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST. "GITMO IS OUR NUMBER ONE". WHAT PEOPLE DO UNDER THE COVERS OF THEIR BED ARE THEIR BUSINESS. "TO EACH THEIR OWN PREFERENCES". WHO ARE WE TO PENALIZED THE SECOND OLDEST SEXUAL ACT IN MAN'S/WOMEN'S HISTORY. SOON THERE WILL BE LAWS THAT PENALIZED KISSING PRIVATELY IN MILITARY. LET US NOT FOGET THAT ONE OF THE FORCES BEHIND THE "WHITE PAT. PARTY" (GLENN MILLER –GREEN BERT) GOT HIS START AND RECRUITED IN THE MILITARY. BAD THINGS COMES FROM BAD IDEAS THAT BECOMES THE LAW OF THE LAND. LET US NEVER FORGET THAT FOR A LONG TIME THE MILITARY HAD LAWS THAT DID NOT ALLOW BLACKS AND WOMEN DO NOTHING BUT "STEP AND FETCH IT" TASKS. NOW LOOK WHAT WISE IDEAS WITH WISE LAWS DID, NOT ONLY FOR THE MILITARY, BUT FOR THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE.

    November 18, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. willie b.

    Oh yeah, let me just say this-those who serve do not have to have the gay agenda forced upon them. Imagine soldiers hitting on each other and your stuck having to call your soldier who is gay your battle buddy-the whole thing is perverted and disgusting.

    November 18, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  8. down with the GOP.

    Dear veteran- do you really think 'someone who would rather cut hair or design clothes ' would rather be in a foxhole w/ bigots like yourself when they apparently be in a salon..come on now.

    If this is repealed (Which I am for) there best be proper protection for the few brave folks who come out as a result of this. As in, there will be backlash and it will come out violently.

    How many attacks have gone silenced or not even picked up by the media that have been on folks who have been accused of being homosexual?
    We need proper awareness that being gay doesn't make you a lesser solider..

    November 18, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  9. 3strikes

    November 18th, 2008 7:47 pm ET

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

    well, its alright, gays in the military have each others backs

    November 18, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  10. Desert Storm Vet

    Matt T – What exactly do you mean "has my back"?

    November 18, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  11. Aaron from Ohio

    Allowing gays to openly serve in the military will be disasterous. It will destroy our armed forces just like it did when African Americans were allowed to serve 60 years ago. All the anti-gay foaming at the mouth makes me wonder just why they are really so afraid. When people are fighting together for their lives, I seriously doubt if a person's sexual orientation is going through their minds. You could even argue that if one guy finds another guy's butt cute...he just might fight a little harder to protect it LOL.

    November 18, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  12. Suz in PA

    Let God deal with the issue.

    November 18, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  13. mm

    YES WE CAN

    we need to clean all the corruption /descrimniation and all that is going on wrong in every single department in this country

    our children deserve a better future from what cheney, bush, palin, coleman, limbaugh, hennety, had envisioned..

    stop all DESCRIMINATION AGAINS ALL AND IN ALL LEVELS IN THIS COUNTRY.. time to BE A TRUE AMERICAN

    November 18, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  14. misty

    it's about time! this is a totally outdated policy.all discrimination in this country needs to end.we are all Americans and deserve the same respect. these are honorable people being discharged for idiot reasons.

    November 18, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  15. Justin

    @Matt:
    Personally, I think most soldiers would rather have the enemy sneak up on their backside than have a gay soldier, be it friend or foe :-)

    November 18, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  16. Brad Fort Worth Texas

    Having proudly served my country in the Army for twenty years I think it is about time to retire the Don't Ask, Don't Tell thought process. While I was in the Army it was not that you are white, black, brown, yellow, gay, straight, bi, we were all camouflage defending the United States of America. Even before the policy was in place most people didn’t care what your race or sexual orientation was. What mattered the most was can you do your job and if needed go above and beyond the call of duty. As a supervisor and leader I expected results to the best of the ability of the people that I supervised and worked with. The ones that stood out were justly rewarded. I lost count of those that I highly recommended for promotion because of their commitment to duty and not because of their race, creed, color, religion or national origin.

    November 18, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  17. Simmy

    The real problem is that those in authority are afraid that a soldier will look at the enemy and say: "He's too cute to kill." Why is it so hard for people to tell the truth?

    November 18, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  18. Sean

    I support the lifting of the ban, perhaps it will end prejudice in the Military, especially the Canadian Forces, which while they say they allow gays to openly serve, still discriminate.

    November 18, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  19. Michael

    I agree 100% with the comment from soldier from iraq.

    November 18, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  20. Matt

    Wow, there's some pretty ignorant comments here. As a former Navy Submariner, I can honestly say that about 99 out of 100 people on my entire base could have cared less about what your sexual orientation was. In fact, there were many many people who didn't exactly play for one team exclusively. Extremely liberal, "Veteran"? Countless nations have already allowed gays to serve openly, so how is this concept new and "extremely liberal"? And I don't know about the air force, but in the real military, in the submarine fleet, I never guys more interested in "cutting hair or designing clothes". I was actually discharged honorably under the don't ask don't tell policy. I'm now a pre-med student in Detroit, but I often think of how great it would be to go back.

    November 18, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  21. Obama 08

    Veteran... you're a sad, pathetic person. Gays in the military "would rather cut hair or design clothes"? We have a volunteer military, smart guy, which means that gays serving in the military chose to serve their country and risk their lives. They're just as willing to lay down their lives to protect their comrades as anyone else serving. Also, your repeated use of Hussein Obama makes you sound childish and bigoted. But maybe you call everyone you know by his or her middle name, even if that is not the name he or she goes by. You are weak.

    November 18, 2008 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  22. Carl Justus

    I am not in favor of homosexuals, but if that is the life they want to live or have to live then they just as liable for this country as anyone else. I say let the serve. They have to obey the same laws as anyone else and if they break those laws then they are just as liable as anyone else.
    It should not make any difference to others who serve. If anyon thinks their blood is not as red as their own they will find out it is. It is not going to make any difference.
    I have known people who were homosexuals ever since I was 12 years old or so and I had my patted by a grown man, but that is as far as it ever got other than hinting they I could make some money. I was as poor as dirt, but not poor enough to start fooling around with anyone of them, and I still ignore them.

    November 18, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. Christopher

    Now comes to the end of " dont ask .. dont tell " ...and the beginning of " ASK & TELL ALL " ....

    November 18, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  24. nom deplume

    This just occurred to me. We will be essentially forcing people who don't share the same basic principles and ideals to live and work together, and we will punish and re-educate those whose ideas don't conform to the new way of thinking. Hmm, in past history, what countries have done this. I wonder. Can anyone help me out?

    Oh, and so the CNN moderator prints this,

    OBAMA in 2012

    November 18, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. dizizi31

    Let's see anyone convicted on a felony cannot vote but can enlist in the military and get a reduced sentence and get military benefits but don't ask don't tell sexuality is sstill an issue. Change We All Need.

    November 18, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
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