July 1st, 2009
09:35 AM ET
5 years ago

Gates considering selective enforcement of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Defense Secretary Gates told reporters he has discussed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with President Obama.
Defense Secretary Gates told reporters he has discussed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' with President Obama.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates for the first time is outlining potential Obama Administration plans to selectively enforce the "don't ask don't tell" ban on gays in the military so that some gays could serve.

Gates says he is now looking at ways to make the ban "more humane" including letting people serve who may have been outed due to vengeance or a jilted lover. The remarks were made in a transcript released Tuesday by the Pentagon.

In addition, Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday the chairman "supports the idea of a less draconian way of enforcing the policy."

Gates told reporters traveling with him, "One of the things we're looking at - is there flexibility in how we apply this law?" As the "don't ask don't tell" law now stands, anyone who is openly gay in the military is expelled if they are found out.

Gates indicated he is looking at several options. "Let me give you an example. Do we need to be driven when the information, to take action on somebody, if we get that information from somebody who may have vengeance in mind or blackmail or somebody who has been jilted."

Gates said he has discussed the issue with President Obama and also during a meeting with his top war-fighting commanders last week. At that military meeting Gates said. "The issue that we face is that how do we begin to do preparations and simultaneously the administration move forward in terms of asking the Congress to change the law."

Obama has been criticized for not moving fast enough to propose a repeal of the ban to Congress. Gates did not indicate the Pentagon was yet supporting a full repeal.

"What we have is a law - be it a policy or a regulation - and as I discovered when I got into it, it's a very prescriptive law. It doesn't leave much to the imagination for a lot of flexibility. And so one of the things we're looking at - is there flexibility in how we apply this law."

The secretary appears to be proposing interim measures. "If somebody is outed by a third party … does that force us to take an action? And I don't know the answer to that, and I don't want to pretend to. But that's the kind of thing we're looking at to see if there's at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed."


Filed under: Obama administration • Robert Gates
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. mike

    Plain and simple this will cause more confusion.

    This is not enough.

    Obama said he would end it. So let's end it.

    July 1, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. jaye

    We have men and women fighting in these wars – what difference does it make if they're GAY?
    The military needs to stop discriminating against these men and women.

    July 1, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  3. Neilz

    Besides, the military has expelled about 130,000 since Clinton started the policy. That's some serious cannon fodder. Gates, serious homophobe that he is, will come up with a plan to get those folks to the front lines.

    July 1, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. Keely Burnside

    "The issue that we face is that how do we begin to do preparations and simultaneously the administration move forward in terms of asking the Congress to change the law."
    How about signing an executive order to temporarily stop all gay military personnel from being removed from the military?
    What Gates is talking about right now has ZERO logic – "if someone is outed by a third party". Are you kidding me? I realize that the Obama administration is dealing with a lot right now, but good men and women are being removed from a miliary that needs their services. Get on it.

    July 1, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  5. paul coke

    Simply do away with it, why single out gay soldiers for what real reason, There are gay cops, gay doctors, and the list goes on and on. This silly argument that it will disrupt soldiers because somebody is gay is the same stupid argument about blacks in the military. If the person is doing their duty isn't that the standard.

    July 1, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  6. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Soldiers who are disproportionately the subject of vengeance, blackmail and jiltation are the reason why the policy was enacted– they pose a threat to morale, discipline and unit cohesion. If there is no discretionary wiggle room in enforcement of the statute, either have Congress change it or enforce it as written. A decision to relax enforcement is one based solely on sexual orientation, and is as Constitutionally flawed as one which is racially based, as in the New Haven firefighters case.

    July 1, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  7. Norcal DM

    I thought the millitary stood for honor, integrity and honesty. Now having said this, being gay or lesbian does not make you any less of a soldier. If you come out, you are simply exercising the teachings of the military as I have laid out above. If you excercise these principles and are discharged for dereliction of duty, this makes the military highly hypocritical.
    The millitary need not care about the sexual orientation of their military personnel and care more about making sure our troops are well trained on the battle field. Overall, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is an ancient policy that must be repealed. This rule weakens the military as it doesn't allow full honesty amongst its personnel. If military personnel cannot be honest with one another, this weakens their ability to band together and fight in a unified manner.

    July 1, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  8. Rob

    Ban it ALL TOGETHER as Obama PROMISED!!!

    July 1, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. JA/TN

    we have gay people serving elsewhere, fromthe pulpit to the lawmkers, wakeup

    July 1, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  10. Moody

    Please repeal this horrible policy of "Dont Ask, Dont Tell"

    What an insult to our gay brothers & sisters that are currently serving in the military.

    Many other countries including Britain have gays openly serving which our American soldiers work side by side with now.

    Stop injecting crazy religous views into federal policy!

    Im glad that the majority of the under 30 crowd supports equal rights for gays. We just need to wait fo all these ignorant old people to die off. This country will be a much better place then.

    July 1, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. Steve

    I guess I don't understand the question. How else is someone going to be "outed", except "by a third party"? As I stated, I served in the military, US Navy, 6 years. I've been there first hand. I believe gays have no place in the military, where we have large common showers, toilets with no wall, doors, or stalls, and people in tight living and berthing quarters. What about the rights of the "straight" majority? Do we need this is a "war zone", especially where one person's life may depend on the person next to them? Maybe if the elected officials who want to change these laws had actually served any time in the military themselves, they'd feel differently.

    July 1, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  12. RH

    Unless you're ready to provide separate barracks, toilets, showers, etc. gays should not be allowed in the military. No one should have to tolerate such an awkward environment as currently exists in which the person standing next to you in the shower is potentially sexually attracted to you.
    Is the American taxpayer ready to spring for four sets of facilities at each military installation? I doubt it. No more PC nonsense!!!!!

    July 1, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  13. SLM

    This is ridiculous!! Either enforce it or repeal it!! Who do they think they are NASCAR?? Make up the rules as you go!! This administration has no definite opinion or stance on anything. You can't have it both ways!!

    July 1, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  14. Melissa

    Unfortunately, Obama is yet again hamstrung by the right on this. Especially given that the Congress is the only one that can change this due to measures they instituted against Bill Clinton when he tried to end the ban against gays in the military.

    Homosexuality needs to be added to the Bill of Rights in a protected status. Enough is enough.

    July 1, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  15. Jim in Fllorida

    Selective enforcement? Oh goodness, a half measure. Gates should be smart enopugh to know that this will be challenged in court and as a result the entire policy will probably be tossed. I suspect this is Obama's plan anyway since he just met with the Gay "leadership" (whatever that means) and promised them the world.

    July 1, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. dominican mama 4 Obama

    A more humane approach to apply what is now currently law.... I like the sound of that...humane. That word has been sorely lacking in our political vocabulary. Thank you Pres. Obama for all of your efforts on behalf of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    July 1, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. James

    It is time to just end this biggoted rule!

    If D.A.D.T is allowed to stay in place then we MUST, and repeat MUST ask every other man or woman in the services if:

    They have sex
    Who they have sex with
    Are you having sexual thoughts
    Do you touch members of the opposit sex
    Do you attend meetings of the opposit sex?
    Do you attend functions where you could possible be attracted to memebers of the opposit sex?

    July 1, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. William in San Jose

    Thanks Barack Obama for taking this situation head-on! (Not) Oh well, what do expect people who you voted for to do, change unfathomably unconstitutional laws that help the military actually retain valuable translators or people fluent in Arabic?Who's telling on whom? I'm telling on you mr president.

    July 1, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  19. harold

    The USA has a policy ..in force now..don't ask don't tell.. sounds kinda like a childs game does it not?.. Anyhow the policy is child like compared with all other countries who have gays in the military.. Gays are in the military anyway.. all the time..What can we expect next. from the USA... government?.. watchdogs on the street of the USA asking who is gay.?. and baring them from making a living.. I don't buy the argument it hurts morale.. What are people in military doing thinking about anothers sex lives anyway?.... Childs games.. next will be hide and seek and ring around the rosie.. or something stupid..

    July 1, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  20. Rob

    I find this idea utterly offensive. Gates is basically saying, "As long as the soldiers themselves aren't honest about their sexuality, it's a-ok by me." Isn't honesty one of the most important qualities stressed at West Point? A policy such as this would be a slap in the face to any gay servicemen or women. It's fine if other people think you're gay as long as you don't admit it...

    July 1, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  21. kishen c.rao

    Instead of all these thins, pres. Obama needs to concentrate on Health Care and Fixing it....ok....Government run health care is a must in nation, now....

    July 1, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  22. Ron In California

    In order to fully understand the issue here you need to have had the military experience. In the military you live very close together with little or no privacy. Having served I can tell you openly gay service members will pose problems in their units.

    July 1, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. Dave F

    I voted for President Obama, and I helped his campaign get him elected. Now I am saddened and ashamed to see that despite his vows to rid the military of this stupid rule, he has done nothing. In fact, he is allowing great service men and women lose their place in our military due to his lack of action.

    July 1, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Matt

    "Gates considering selective enforcement of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'" Talk about a discrimination lawsuit in the making, you can not make this selective. If someone told me that they selectively disqualified me, I'd make you pay

    July 1, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  25. donttreadonme

    A friend and I were sexually harassed by a gay sailor while serving in the Gulf. It started with "port of call" stories about his escapades (gross but harmless) then it advanced ,despite my objections, to graphic details, winks and checking us out! It ended with an inappropriate look at the urinal and my fist across his head. His butt was kicked out and rightfully so.

    There have also been cases of gay Marines filming themselves making gay porno.

    Both of these are damaging to the moral of the service members.

    July 1, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
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