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his power to change the policy and forced him to accept the Don't Ask Don't Tell compromise - a law that can only be repealed by Congress.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

    If some one chooses to be gay that is their desicion
    they werent born that way

    November 18, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. heartlander

    I guess the military will no longer be a safe haven for intolerant, backward types.

    November 18, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  3. Toocorrect

    Let's get serious though. Is wartime right for this expiriment? Everyone saying they don't want people serving who are against this kind of thing is fooling themselves. These are the people who fight our wars. Period. Would it bother me? No. However I screwed up and said something stupid once and regardless how many women I was with it was a never ending gay joke on me. I got Irate about it. I was even asked by my superiors if I was gay. The military , I mean straight up combat arms grunts, well look at the demographics. I remember sitting around with the loudest group of guys ever and talking about what guys talk about, sex. And thensomeone says something about a gay sex act. These guys don't want to hear it. Be realistic, there are few progressives out there pulling triggers. Tell me I'm an idiot bigot if you want but I am a realist.

    November 18, 2008 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. Vet08

    Some of you made a comment about other countries having gay in their military forces serving openly, but those are other countries. You should join them. I don't have anything against gays but We, the most powerful armed forces in the whole world don't need that.

    November 18, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. wilmer

    Homosexuals should not be confused with being feminine , some of the macho athletes are gay. Alexander the great, the most famous warrior in history was gay.Discrimination against our brave, dedicated and patriotic
    soldiers is an abomination for which this country stands..freedom and equal justice for all.

    November 18, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  6. David

    We as people of this world, must accept each and every individual sexual orientation, color, race and religion, because it is not up to the humans to judge how people run their lives, but it up to the people whom lives decently among us. GOD judges all human sins, so America, we have to deal with the fact the gays live among us. If you commit adultery, you commit sin, so let each and everyone accept their faith.

    November 18, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. Bec

    Seriously if you are willing to take orders & potentially give your life for our country does it really matter what your sexual preferences are? That you have to be straight in order to serve the country is ridiculous.

    November 18, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. df

    JP – You make it sound like "the gays" will attack you in the foxhole!! Give me a break – heterosexual men and women serve together all day long and they don't break out in sexual acts – and it would be unprofessional if they did. So what's your point, really? You think homosexuality is wrong because it says it in YOUR bible? I don't care what your bible tells you – nor is it anybody's responsibility to abide by your bible. Gay people are NOT sexual predators, nor will they act any differently now (while serving) than they will when the ban is lifted. They just won't get kicked out (over 10K now) for talking about their families and their lives the way that heterosexual people do (like hey – my wife/husband and I went to the movies this weekend. Have you seen that movie?) Please keep your religious perspective out of the argument – it really has no place. It is everybody's honor and right to serve THEIR country

    November 18, 2008 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. Real Democrat

    Whoever signed the bigoted comment as Veteran, better do not use thsis good word next time. The appropriate signature for you Bigot

    November 18, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. facts are facts

    Good to see there are a limited number of bigots on this blog. Wouldn't it be great if there was also a limited number of bigots throughout the U.S.

    Being from a modern society a person's sexual orientation hasn't meant anything to me or anyone I know for that matter.

    There are hetersexual couples all over the U.S. and the world cheating on their spouses, getting divorced, involved in child pornography, regularly hire hookers and continually go from a one night stand to another one night stand etc. etc. but for some reason the bigots think this is okay and/or normal. WOW!!!!!!

    November 18, 2008 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Josh P

    I am a Navy veteran who served on a carrier for 4 years...we had many gay and lesbian sailors on our ship who served proudly and honorably...did their duty...sometimes better than the straight people I worked with! How many gay men and women have served on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, been shot at, and saved the lives of their straight comrades?! Honor and duty do not discriminate, and neither should we! I honor and respect ALL our soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors who answer the call of duty, regardless of sexual orientation! To all those who serve and still serve, gay or straight, THANK YOU!

    November 18, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. Chris

    When African American Soldiers were integrated into the military opponents claimed readiness and troop moral would suffer. And lets not forget about females. Both of these claims have been proven wrong and bigoted. I have been in the military for 15 years and fought in Iraq. In that time I have served with African American, female and homosexual Soldiers that are more competent and braver than I am. It is time to lift the ban on homosexuals and females in combat positions.

    November 18, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. YOLA

    I am stunned that this is being discussed! They are good enough to fight and die for our great country but only if they hide who the really are? Tell you what, bring all the gay men and women home and let only straight people fight. Why can't people leave judgment to G-d? Men are flawed and should have NO influence on others. Sad, sad!

    November 18, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  14. Freethinker

    If only Atheists, Freethinkers, etc., could come out of the closet too...

    There ARE atheists in foxholes. I'm one of them.

    November 18, 2008 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  15. IraqVet

    Since when did the military become the social petri dish for battling all of the country's social ills? If you want to make changes in society then make them. But please stop thinking that all of you people who dont serve and never have think it is your place to dictate what those of us who have should think about the issue. You don't have a dog in the fight, you dont know the issues, concerns or reasons people have for how they feel either way. Personally, I am in the military and I support lifting the ban but I understand why others have the opposite position. There are REAL, legitimate issues with this issue that there are no easy answers for.

    Now, America, please stop telling us what WE should think or how WE should feel about the issue as if we dont have brains or opinions -or as if we are some lesser form of life who is not worthy of having our own positions on it.

    November 18, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  16. Matt

    To anybody who believes that letting gays and lesbians serve their country openly in our Armed Forces will result in "a loss of morale" or other behavior problems, please cite a specific example of where a morale or behavior problem has already occurred in an American military unit, and then please tell us why there have been NO such incidents reported in any of the militaries of our NATO allies or Israel, ALL of which allow their gay and lesbian citizens to serve openly in their armed forces.

    If it works there, it can work here too.

    November 18, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. Freethinker

    By the way,

    I'm a heterosexual military officer but I get discriminated against for my Athesim, more than the homosexual military members.

    A recent study showed that more Americans would accept having a gay President than an Atheist one.


    November 18, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  18. justin b.

    To those of you who say "the mission/troops would lose focus", (and other such nonsense) because of an openly serving gay person, you've got it all wrong. The fault lies with the bigot, for being so shortsighted as to let their OWN prejudice cloud their ability to "properly serve" the armed forces of the United States of America.

    November 18, 2008 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  19. Jeff DeLuca

    May I ask when you chose to be straight?

    Mind your own business and let people live their lives. Neither you or the government have any right to tell two consenting adults what they can and can't do in the privacy of their own homes.

    November 18, 2008 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  20. Not Sure

    Hey President Elect Obama, here's an idea. Why not ask the military men and women what they think – not the leadership, retirees, politicians, civilians – but the current people serving in the military. It seems like they would be the best to judge what affect this would have on the military...just a thought.

    November 18, 2008 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  21. Common Sense Head

    We all know many gays have served the nation honorably in many ways, including the military but ….its best for all of us to not wear our sexuality on our sleeves. It makes people uncomfortable – especially in the shower! Stay in and serve on..

    November 18, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  22. Observer

    I want to begin by saying that I truly believe that anyone who is willing to lay down their life in defense of their country should have the opportunity to serve with honor and not be subjected to discrimination.
    What do you do with living quarters? What do you do about the showers? If homosexuals are forced to shower in the same showers at the same time as heterosexuals then we should also do away with the sexual segregation that already exists. (Male/female) Either everyone gets their own shower/living quarters or it should become universally coed. Yes? No? Please discuss.

    November 18, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  23. tiffany in ohio

    i dont know why people are so afraid of gays. unless they are sitting in front of your home having sex or is stalking you then you shouldnt be worried. gay people look for other gay people to hook up with not straight (unless you show curiosity). it has been gay people on this earth since the beginning of time an its not going to change so get over it an give them rights so they can be happy.lord knows alot of straight people cant even be happy in a normal relationship.

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

    Folks, those of your who have not served in the US military over the last ten years may be amazed to learn:

    1) all service members receive gay/lesbian sensitivity training on an annual basis (i.e. taught the basis of Don't Ask/Don't Tell; taught to respect others of different sexual orientation).

    2) during training and deployment, men and women frequently sleep in the same tents/living quarters due to limited resources.

    I have never witnessed inappropriate sexual behavior among service members in these circumstances.

    November 18, 2008 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  25. Pierre Alexes

    As a Canadian, I am proud to say that our military recruits gays. The bravery of our military is proof enough in Afghanistan. Great Britain's and Israel's military, just to name 2 other countries, don't discriminate against gays in their military. I am tempted to say that Israel's military and Great Britain's military performances have been proven. The U.S. military might take a few lessons from them.
    The U.S. has too many religious bigots and proven by their hypocrisy.

    November 18, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
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