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his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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

    Thanks President-Elect Obama, right on time once again.

    Memo to Michael Hsu,
    I've got news for you, you already serve with gays buddy.

    November 18, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. Nate

    Good order and disicipline of a unit anyone? 2 wars? We don't have time for this in our Army! It will happen, its it! But I have infantrymen and artillerymen to worry about in a combat zone. This without them trying to kill each other over sexuality would be nice! Understand they are bigots but they fight our nations wars not rows of progressives. If this goes through there had better be a line for blocks around every recuriting station!

    November 18, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  3. Desert Storm

    The way our military has been depleted in, oh, say the last 8 years we need all the good men and women we can get. If they want to volunteer and serve our great country then that is an honorable thing.

    Forget about the naysayers and bigots like the one who kept calling President-Elect Obama by his middle name and saying that these people "would rather cut hair or design clothes" all the while posting under the name "veteran", as if to give himself more credibility. The military is all volunteer, if they wanted to cut hair or design clothes that is what they would be doing. They wouldn't be volunteering to serve their country. It is their country as much as it is ours, let 'em serve, let 'em be heroes.

    November 18, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  4. Michael Hsu

    Hey Michael Hsu, you already do serve with the gays you buffoon. If I was you, I'd keep my ignorant thoughts to myself. Better chance of hiding the fact that you're a caveman that way.

    November 18, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. brandon

    Dear Veteran,

    As a military man myself I am disgusted , that you would use the uniform of our great nation as a shield for your own prejudice , it was people like you that at one point that said blacks and others would be the down fall of our military. I have served with gays, and could careless what they do in there bedrooms as long as they carry there end of the mission when it,s go time. So please do not pull us into your disgusting world view.

    November 18, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Vet 2

    Hey Veteran,

    Gays served open in the military during WWII and no one seemed to have a problem with that. The doors closed sometime after the war. My dad, a 22yr Navy Vet told me this. Since the doors have closed, it seems as if hate crimes, violence and career destruction had escalated. Check it out and get back with me.

    USAF Vet, 25yrs

    November 18, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  7. Joseph

    Michael Hsu, you already serve with them. Why is the Christian right so outspokenly backwards? I'd want to keep it to myself, so my friends didn't know I was out of my mind.

    November 18, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  8. Afghanistan Vet

    and another thing are we going to give every soldier and infantry soldier in the military sensitivity training? Because they will definitely need it. And even if they did, would or could the commanders and infantry commanders enforce it? NO WAY. But then again if they are going to sign up for the infantry, they know it isn't going to be a cake walk from day one. I am conflicted.

    November 18, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  9. Another Veteran

    Unlike one AF vet, this AF vet had no problem with willing Americans serving in our Armed Forces. If the policy is lifted, I'd like to see retroactive changes in DATD discharges to the people thrown out for homosexuality have a chance to return to service if they choose.

    November 18, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. Cynthia

    I frankly don't care if you are GLBT and serving our military. I will always thank ANYONE WHO SERVES IN OUR MILITARY and support them 100% all the time. The only thing I don't get is why you feel the need to tell someon you are GLBT. What is the purpose? Is there some sort of identiy problem and this will help you resolve that or is it something else.

    November 18, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. Rick in San Diego

    Unfortunately VETERAN is showing his/her true self by calling president-elect Obama by his middle name and portraying all gays as intent on fashion and hair. This is another misguided attempt at more fear and hate mongering as we've seen over the last 8 years. Gays deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone. Period

    November 18, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  12. Albo58

    As a former GI, I don't have a problem with allowing gays to openly serve, but some will. I think unless Obama is going to go after legislation in every state to give gays 100% rights like the right to get married, etc, then don't even begin to dictate a social-experimenting policy to the DoD! Furthermore, there are a lot of issues affecting the country currently and he should put his energies into things like the economy and re-address this issue later on. Sure, I know he "owes" the gay coalitions, but don't do like Clinton did after he first got elected or else you'll get another "don't ask/don't tell" piece of legislative garbage and further alienate both side! Translation: pick your battles carefully.

    November 18, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. maurice

    i think that any sexual act regardless unless by people who are off the base shouln`t be tolorated period. other than that a persons private sexual life is their bussiness. i also think anyone caught having any sexual act while on active duty and on a military base should be immediately be given a dishonorable discharge. the armed forces is not a private sector job therefore should be handled with extreme mesure. however sex acts on a military base unless it is between 2 married people. where the married partner has authorization to be on said military base. (see above) however a persons life style and sexual preference is soley up to the individule. and should not be scruntanised by anyone. after all who is anyone to judge another. for if people read and believe in the bible jesus himself said he who is without sin cast the 1st stone. and on that note there should be a greater seperation of church and state.

    November 18, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  14. enough, we have other real problems to solve.

    Formet vet speaking and i say.....the army is not right for gays. sorry but it's not, i don't want to know when I'm in a latrine that's not private some gay girl is checking me out.

    November 18, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  15. catmom

    Veteran, get a grip !! You would probably be surprised that some of the people you described as rather wanting to cut hair or design clothes were most needed in the current war as translators. They probably fought right along with you when you served. As a matter of fact, they were probably more man than you were. Get over your stereotypes. Perhaps you should take some time and meet a gay military person who voluntarily enlisted to serve their country.

    November 18, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. Air Force Vet

    I currently serve in the Air Force and have served in Iraq among other places. I think that the ban on gays serving openly in the military is a horrid thing. These people work beside me and many others, and serve with honor yet they are not entitled to the basic rights and freedoms that the rest of us in the military have, enjoy, and take for granted. Yes they knew the rules when they joined, but lets face it most straight 17 or 18 year old kids have no clue what they are getting themselves into when they join. Why should gays be held to a higher standard? Life is hard enough in the military and gays have it that much harder. Regardless when and if DADT is eliminated gays will continue to serve with honor, its time that we honor the sacrifices that they have made. Gays sacrifice more than straight service members like myself, they sacrifice any chance of normalcy and lasting relationships. If you serve and you can't bring yourself to serve with a gay then please leave my military because I don't want someone that ignorant watching my back.

    November 18, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  17. KentD

    I say let gays serve openly. Then the irony of gays defending the rights that they themselves are denied will be more evident. Equality for all!

    November 18, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  18. Leo

    As a former enlisted aircrew member in the USAF, I can definitely say an openly gay crew member or "ground pounder" would hamper the mission. You have young and dumb teenagers enlisting in the armed services. Their prejudices against "alternative lifestyles" would hamper the mission and discipline. Leave the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" alone so we can maintain discipline and "focus" in our military. As a dumb 20-year old, I suspected several fellow crew members of living an "alternative lifestyle". However, I gave them the respect and dignity they deserved. If these individuals decided to "come out" it would have affected the mission and our focus despite sensitivity training. Not from me necessarily, but from my fellow testosterone driven Airmen. USAF officer must not be much of a leader or completely out of touch with reality.......

    November 18, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  19. Scott, MA

    Everyone here opposed to ending Don't Ask Don't Tell resorts to outlandish stereotypes or outright bigotry. I work with gay people all the time and have many gay friends, and not one of them cuts hair or designs clothes. All this hysteria about openly gay people in the military sounds a lot like things that were said before the military was integrated racially.

    The American military is well-trained and professional. I am confident that they can carry out their missions regardless of being gay or straight.

    November 18, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  20. Richard A. Spomer

    So if you are not gay minded, you will become so! This is what part of an Obama White House is going to bring with his Presidency. If your centrally minded, you will need to become even more so.

    The change about to come is going to cost everyone, so you better look at a security system for your children’s welfare, because the left side of the swindle is heaver!

    November 18, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  21. US Army veteran

    I didn't know a single service member that cared about sexual preference. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a political football. We just wanted to do our jobs. Letting gays serve openly wasn't going to hinder anything then and it sure as Hell isn't now. On the contrary, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" complicated what should have been a non-issue for us.

    Let gays serve openly. Let all service members be equal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let us worry about important stuff like our missions.

    November 18, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  22. Nick - Arlington, VA

    Michael Hsu November 18th, 2008 7:46 pm ET
    Hell no! We won't serve with gays!
    Grow up.

    November 18, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  23. This IS America... right?

    I can't believe some people... "Veteran" who posted before me is a prime example of what's wrong with some of the citizens of this country. I can't say I'm for someone being a homosexual but isn't America a place that is supposed to be for equality and fairness? Why are we still allowing the stereotypes to plague our minds? Quit watching TV sitcoms about gay people and understand what they are really like. To say they'd "rather cut hair or design clothes" lets me know you are horribly out of touch. If you are a true "Veteran" then you'd realize you fought for everything this country stands for and that a homosexual would be just as reliable in a "wartime situation" as a heterosexual.

    November 18, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  24. Corey M.

    Um, Veteran...

    The military is not MANDATORY. Therefore, the person who has your back, whether he or she is gay or straight, CHOSE to be there. He or she would rather be backing up a comrade than "cutting hair or designing clothes." How ignorant of you! As far as I can remember, career choice is still a choice, not a draft. So you rather die than be saved by a gay soldier? Fine. I don't want soldiers like you in my American military.

    November 18, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  25. Furtail

    Long overdue

    November 18, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
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