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his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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

    finally we crawl out of the middle ages decades behind the rest of europe, isreal, south africa, many south american nations. it's about time.

    November 18, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  2. sneaky pete

    Veteran – I am willing to bet you had those very people backing you up and you just didnt know it. Your ignorance and hatred is so pathetic.

    Whats it matter if they are openly gay in the army or closet gays in the army? Either way they are gay and being gay does not affect their job and duty. Having spent 3 years working on DLI in Monterey, CA as access control and doing random vehicles inspections, it was painfully obvious when some of the soldiers were gay and this policy was really meaningless. It's out dated and being gay should not prevent someone from serving in the military.

    November 18, 2008 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  3. angry female vet

    oh you military people who support this stupid policy.. get real!!!! I was good enough to serve for many years in the USAF.... had a very high rank... and actually went to Nam! DON'T YOU DARE TELL ME THAT I AM NOT AND WAS NOT FIT TO SERVE! We are everywhere, you morons... wake up!!!! You have no idea how many gays are currently serving.. WITH HONOR!... you served with us.. and along side of us... and you just didn't know it. Take your insane, medieval thinking back to the dark ages where you belong!

    November 18, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  4. Matt T is Disgraceful

    Disgraceful comment by Matt T. You obviously never served your country. As a military officer and Obama supporter, I guarantee this is a "third rail" issue with military leadership. Look at the big picture: little gained at high (very high) political cost.

    November 18, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. Arjy, MN

    Obama I supported you in 2008 and I will do that again in 2012. But I don't think is a good idea to repeal don't ask, don't tell. marriage should be between a man and a woman. Not the opposite around.

    November 18, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  6. Physician in Atlanta

    To 'Veteran' above who thinks gays should not be allowed in the military: Your typical display of ignorance and closed-mindededness actually aids the argument that the ban should be lifted. The vast majority of American military and citizens realize that there are gays throughout every walk of life and that one's sexual orientation has no more bearing on the ability to function well in the military than innumerable other differences we all have. Get your head out of the sand!

    November 18, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  7. curtis in WI

    Every day I am more and more proud to have voted for this man twice.

    November 18, 2008 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  8. Steve

    Good. About time.

    And the bans on gay marriage are gonna be next to fall.

    November 18, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    Veteran – nice to see that the "freedom" you served to uphold was meant for only those you decide deserve that freedom. How big of you to share your ignorance – Thank you.

    November 18, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  10. New Day


    Nascar has been commercialized, country music sounds now sounds like rock music, the US elected an African-American president, GM trucks and Hummers are going the way of the dinosaur and, now, gays may soon be serving openly in military... ...not a good time to be a closed-minded redneck, huh? What's next, a Jeff Foxworthy rap album?


    November 18, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  11. carolo

    At least this is one step in the direction of treating gays as human beings. Their sexually should not mean they do not love their country and may wish to serve it.

    November 18, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  12. Gay member of a military family

    This has to be the funniest thing I've read (in a "We're-laughing-AT-you" way). How ridiculous can you possibly get? Bullets whizzing by your heads and you think somebody's gonna want to do your nails for you? Maybe put a little more product in your hair? "Hey, your uniform needs a little touch up.. I got just the right thing to make it pop!!"

    While we're at it, "Veteran", who let all those blacks and women in there, anyway?!?

    November 18, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  13. Ellie

    It's about time. We should be ending discrimination whenever we can!

    November 18, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  14. Tennisguypitt

    We're supposed to represent equal opportunity... let's start acting like it.

    To all of you who will condemn this and use religion to justify it... The God I learned about in Sunday school would not discriminate gays.

    November 18, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  15. lee

    To Veteran: While I respect the fact that you served in the military, I have great issues with what you're saying. First, to refer to the President-elect as 'Hussein Obama' is simply disrespectful and just stupid and I hope that everyone can see that you're just trying to invoke a sense of fear by using this man's middle name. And you do this while hiding behind an anonymous alias. And then to stereotype all gays and lesbians is just further disrespect to the gay service members already in the military and the countless others out there who would like to join. I've known a number of gay servicemen and they wanted nothing more than to be able to serve their country. Looking at other nations and their policies on gays ( you can clearly see that very, very few countries have such a ban. The majority of our allies allow gays to openly serve. What are your concerns about that? Do you feel we should now limit our military's involvement with these other countries because one of our soldiers might encounter one of their gay ones? And I'm curious to know what your opinion on women serving in the military is? Do you feel we should apply some stereotypes there?

    November 18, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. John Stewart

    The discrimination and pure idiocy that some servicemembers create must end. We as soldiers shouldn't have to worry about anything else than our task at hand; To serve and protect this country we love so dearly.

    November 18, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. anybody anywhere

    What's next pink camouflage?

    November 18, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  18. Dennis

    A survey of Americans. How about a survey of the military? I don't think you will find it to be near that 70%. I don't believe it should happen.

    November 18, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  19. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Only because they need the bodies.

    November 18, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  20. Scottva

    I can't figure out what all of the fuss is about. I am a vet and so is my husband. Just get rid of it already. We have always been there and will always be there.

    November 18, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  21. Obama 08

    To "Michael Hsu" you are serving with gays now and just don't know it. Think about it...please!!!

    November 18, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  22. JSmith

    There are at least four separate studies conducted by the military and paid for by the taxpayers that show permitting gays to serve has no negative affect on the military. It is only the bigots and extremists who continue to want to discriminate. This is action whose time is way overdue. Gays have been serving in the military for decades.

    November 18, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  23. Jeff

    The present policy is hypocritical in that there are many thousands of gay and lesbian service people serving their country honorably, but they are forced to hide or risk losing their careers. That is no way to treat people.

    If others in the military cannot accept that, they should not be in the American military. Other countries have accepted gay and lesbian service people serving openly, and there is no reason we should be different.

    November 18, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  24. Dan MN

    Oh boy, here we go. Can we please work on getting the economy back on track?

    November 18, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  25. Navy Annx

    I have been in the Navy for 16 and a half years and I have been to Iraq twice. I am gay. Veteran you should be ashamed of yourself! Many like myself have served our counry proudly. It's a good thing you are out of the US military. We don't need people like yourself.

    November 18, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
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