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his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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

    Creepy thought that a fellow male soldier living in my barracks might be sexually lusting after me. But hey, having homosexuals serving openly in the military might not be a bad idea. By knowing who is homosexual might make it much easier for certain adjustments to be made.

    November 18, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  2. Thijs de Vries

    I here a lot of right wing nuts spreading the hate. All I have to say is the tables have turned, you had your eight years to destroy this country and now Obama is going to put us back on the path of progress.

    November 18, 2008 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  3. Oklahoma Patriot

    I am glad to see that someone somewhere finally recognizes that who one chooses to love OFF DUTY has no affect on who they protect ON DUTY. Gays have always served in the military (sorry, bigots, it's true!)...and their blood is just as red when it is spilled to keep us free. Having the right to serve honorably as who they are without risking being kicked out is just the right thing to do. We ask them to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, it's about time that they are given the same rights as their fellow soldiers. On another note, however, there are plenty of close-minded people hiding in the ranks – so here's to hoping that those who lower the nobility of our Armed Forces see this as a reason to finally leave... Home of the Brave - and Free! Go Army! Hooah!

    November 18, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  4. From Cleveland, OH

    "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"

    Maybe the dumbest justification (in a long and illustrious line of dumb justifications) for a policy that does absolutely no good for anyone or this country.

    The problem is not the gay and lesbian individuals who want to defend their nation. The problem is the bigoted folks who don't even grasp the values of freedom and equality for which this nation stands.

    I don't speak for everyone, but I'd rather have openly gay soldiers than stupid soldiers.

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

    As the most recent in a long line of a military family, I have to say I am ashamed of comments so ignorant. If they wanted to cut hair they would go to school for cosmotology--not sign up to honorably defend this nation just like straights do.

    And I am tired of the mentioning that Hussein being his middle name makes any difference. Does the name Schmidt or Petersen make you a Nazi just because they are Germanic? Thank you for your service, but your comments are not needed. This is for the, as you said, the US Military/Joint Chiefs of Staff to decide.

    November 18, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  6. Gay soldier


    As a gay soldier in a medical unit in San Antonio, I have been out for two years, and guess what? NONE OF MY BATTLE BUDDIES CARE!!! Thank you Obama!

    November 18, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  7. Fla. Voter

    It is past time to do away with the outdated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It was reported that Arabic translators are being discharged from the military under this misguided policy.

    There seems no justification for discriminating against Americans wanting to serve in our armed forces.

    November 18, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  8. dogman

    I hope this doesn't result in a surplus of REAR ADMIRALS?

    November 18, 2008 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  9. I love this Country

    When someone fights for this country and is not given the same rights as everyone else, yet will still fight in hopes of change... that's an American Soldier! I don't think people really understand how this subject affects those without the rights, so here's a clue. When a homosexual soldier has lost their life do to combat situations, what do you think its like for their spouse at home? Their spouse won't get the letter, or call, or any acknowledgement at all. There are no benefits for those who make the same sacrifices by watching their loved one leave on that plane or boat and serve a country who does not recognize them. There are no support groups for those spouses, while their soldier is on the front lines risking their lives night and day for people who don't appreciate their services and judge them on who they love. So I stand up for Obama's plan and say "Thank You" because change IS needed. America is a land of the free and of opportunity, it is a constitutional right that is being denied to some of its citizens.

    November 18, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  10. Kirsten

    YES!!! Beautiful choice.

    November 18, 2008 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  11. VNVET

    There were homosexuals in country in 74 and there's gays eatin' sand now. GET over it!

    November 18, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  12. USMC

    Michael Hsu – You said "Hell no! We won't serve with gays!"

    I got news for you buddy – you already do !!!

    And even though you hate me – I still got yer back !!!

    Semper Fi

    November 18, 2008 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  13. RB

    What a country we are! So we will allow our gays to fight our wars and die in our wars, but wont allow them to have any rights here at home? Doesnt this sound the same as sending African Americans to war back in the day when they were segregated? They were good enough to fight our wars but not to have equal rights! Why is it ok to discriminate against select groups and not others? I believe all people are equal...regardless if they are white, black, gay, straight... EVERYONE deserves to have rights. We give immigrants free medicaid and cant discriminate against them. Lets start taking care of our OWN!!

    November 18, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  14. Flex

    Where is all of the right-wing patriotism? Do you think the troops are that unprofessional that they can't handle working with someone they think is gay? When did ignorance become a point of view?

    November 18, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  15. jp

    Michael Hsu:

    You all ready serve with gays!

    former member of the Air Force.

    November 18, 2008 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  16. David

    I am a retired Army veteran, and during my first 3 years in the military, I had a roommate who was gay . He was my friend and I allowed him to use my car, him and his friends, I saw him as a friend. We were roommates, and if I was sick, Henry went and got me some medicine and I did the same. I have nothing against gays being open in the military. My only problem is that my roommate ask me one night, are we friends, and I told him, yes, we are friends, he then, proceeded to say is that ALL. The very next day, I went to my platoon sergeant to tell him about what happened and that I wanted to move to another room, because I did not like the conversation the night before. My point, I have learned to accept sexual orientation of another, as long as they do not tried to do the same as my ex-Army buddy-Henry. As of this point, if I have to serve, again with an open gay person I would not discriminate , because you will have to deal with the "Maker". We are all humans, and we will let GOD deal with sins of the human race! That is for all people and not just gays.

    November 18, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  17. Angie

    How time! My God...America is the land of dreams and we move at turtle pace. Jeez. However, I'm really proud of America. We're making really big steps in the right direction. Yay, we're all growing up. Finally.

    Gays love their country as well. If they want to join the military to help fight and protect their country, then who is ANY BODY to deny them that right and honor? Psh.

    November 18, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  18. JR in PA

    JP asks, "....did God intend for same gender to be sexually and intimately involved with each other?"

    Um, do you thing God intended for people of any gender to be firing AK-47s at each other? Get real: God is not involved in anything regarding warfare.

    As for those of you who fear gays will scope you out in the barracks, how about you guys wake up and smell the napalm, too? What makes you think you're that desirable?

    Gays, many of them, servie in the military. Don't Ask, Don't Tell doesn't prevent that, it will just keep the paranoid guessing about who's secretly scoping them out.

    November 18, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  19. Gay Soldier

    I am a gay officer serving in the US Army (in the closet of course) and I for one do not go around a stare at other guys in the latrines or in the showers. Get over yourselves people – not all gays are looking to jump the guy next to them. We just want to be able to serve openly and defend our country like the next man. Gays and Lesbians can shoot a weapon, drive a tank, fuel an aircraft, translate a language, and do everything else that the straight soldiers can do (except for get married in most states, but thats the topic of a different rant...). The military has discharged so many qualified soldiers for this stupid reason at a cost of millions of dollars worth of lost training and re-training of someone to fill their spaces.

    November 18, 2008 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  20. TonyQ

    They said the same thing about blacks in the military. It will disrupt unit cohesion, etc., etc. Well, it disrupt it, for a while. They got over it. Progress was made. Brains were enlightened. If our military is the greatest in the world and they can handle the stress of war I think they are capable of handling openly serving gays.

    November 18, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  21. John in Chicago

    Dennis, I think your predictions on polling the military are far from accurate and I am almost sure, from personal experience, that they are far closer to the publics opinion than you think. As a veteran of 5 years I served in the Navy and was out at all but one duty station (that being a training command of less than 3 months) and during that 5 years encountered no homophobia either from my peers or superiors. Your pessimism concerning our current military force is disappointing and degrades the proffesionalism of our military.

    November 18, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  22. jmeti000

    soooo, does this mean that all those who were discharged for being gay would be able to re-enlist without any issues?

    November 18, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  23. Nate S

    I think the "don't ask, don't tell" Policy is the best compromise there is. I think there does need to be revisions to the Policy to stop so many discharges.

    November 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  24. Pete - Chicago, IL

    There have always been, currently are, and always will be gays serving in the military. I'm gay and I served on active duty from 1990-1994 in Desert Shield/Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia. They asked me when I enlisted, and I lied. I achieved te rank of E-5 in less than 3 years. I have several letters of commendation, as well as a Navy Achievement Medal. Most gay people I know served honorably and had similar experiences. It was the greatest four years of my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. For you people on active duty that have a problem with gays serving, get a grip. If you discharged every gay person on active duty right now you would have to shut down all military health care facilties and nobody would get paid on the first of the month.

    November 18, 2008 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  25. john

    i dont want them in the showers....... sick

    November 18, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
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