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. gt

    obama has cave in to every left wing group,,, this is just another one ,, ,, i hear the drip ... drip... drip... of americans greatness being wash away... very , very , very sad day for america.....

    July 1, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. Larry

    The law ... Don't Ask Don't Tell ... is rediculous from the get go

    Elimination of this Draconian homophobia is the only course that should be taken

    I'm embarrassed to live in a world where people have such fears of other people

    Grow Up America ...

    July 1, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Lisa P

    Just get rid of the darn law! Selective enforcement will only prolong it by getting rid of (or at least pretending to get rid of) the most egregious situations and abuses. But it's the WHOLE policy that stinks, and needs to be overturned.

    Man up, US military, and learn how to deal with the gay folks among us, or stop taking communal showers if it bothers you so much.

    July 1, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. Obama Victim

    it is very comforting to know that things are so good around the world, that Obozo and the defense department have time to look at the shiny boy policy................I guess North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan will just have to wait........................and how many days have those girls been locked uo in North Korea now??

    July 1, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. demwit

    Selective enforcement!? But isn't that called discrimination!!??

    July 1, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  6. demwit

    Let them in!! Then the military can simply give them a pill for that kind of abnormal behavior disorder..

    July 1, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  7. Marcy

    "Change the law", "make it more humane". I guess that is admission of how it is 'inhuman' the treatment of our Gay Americans really is. Get rid of the law, you cowards. Perhaps Gay Americans should all quit serving our nation. I would never serve where treated as some freak. Perhaps Gay Americans should get a tax break, I think about one half goes to military, since this law dismisses them, it seems only fair. I am so sick of gay discrimination, hatred, ignorance,greedy politicians, and religious fanatics. Those are the basis for argument against gays.None of which should NOT take place in our GREAT country. I am ashamed.

    July 1, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  8. Charlie in Maine

    The main reson that the military was on the cutting edge back in the 1940s with integration and dragging its feet now is simple. To integrate the troops one needed only to prove that black solders were of equal talent and patriotism a simple task sonce they were.
    The problem with gays in the armed forces is that unlike being black some mis-guided souls see being gay as a choice and they are afraid that they are gay themselves and would start to show it if they spent any time with "them". Although that is not true and in fact peposterous it is harder to prove than the ability of black solders.

    July 1, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Bo Perdue

    You have a law - leave it alone.

    July 1, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. tom

    I have no clue why people hate gays. Except to say they are usually the same people who hate a lot of things. It is very evident it is genetic but try to convince someone who thinks the earth is 6,ooo years old. If a gay person is the best heart surgeon in the world do I not use him because they are gay. If your worried about the sex thing just look at a priest, a judge, a senator, a governor and tell me they are normal. I am not gay and can't simply hate something I don't do or I might hate just hate dancing with the stars because I don't dance.

    July 1, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. Thomas

    When I was in the military I shared a barracks room with a homosexual man. Never had any problems.

    We were both respectful of each other. It is not that big of an issue.

    July 1, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. georgia

    Trying to finesse this silly, discriminatory rule is nonsense; Obama should do away with it NOW.

    July 1, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  13. Jim

    Just repeal the policy already! Stop dragging this out. It's discriminatory. It's nonsensical. It needs to end.

    Just do it.

    July 1, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. rand

    I know the process to repeal this ridiculous law has begun. What my worries are is if we can get around this law as suggested, will the law stay in place?

    July 1, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. Matt

    This law is unconstitutional and should be removed entirely, not applied selectively. What a ruse.

    July 1, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. Chris (Buffalo, NY)

    To all Christians who feel right condeming gays: While it may contain some laudable sentiment, the Bible cannot be used as a basis for civil law in any nation that values freedom, justice, and equity. Laws must be precise, specific, and fair. Given the Bible's inconsistencies, absurdities, discriminatory attitudes, and varying interpretations – along with the fact that it can be used to justify nearly any action – it is ill suited for the purpose of law, especially in a free society. Criticize what you want as sin, but if those attitudes cannot be justified through evidence or demonstratable harm, then do not expect a nation founded on liberty to legally enforce your bigotry.

    July 1, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    This is a volunteer military and those that choose to serve should be allowed to do that. I don't care who fights and serves the country as long as they do the job well and doesn't compromises our security. There are stories in the press that people are being discharged even though they vital skills that we are in need of; that makes little sense to me. They want to serve? I say let them serve!

    July 1, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  18. JB

    I m all for Gays opnely serving in the military. I do have a question however. How would they handle living arrangements? I would not as a male, want to bunk with a bunch of gay guys. Just as the opposite sex is segregated to avoid problems. So with that said, would they have gay bunks? I know some gays will say "how dare you be so crude", or "it doesn't work that way", but, it is no different than a man who looks at a woman and is attracted. And, a woman would not want to shower with a bunch of guys, so, how is it different? In order for this to work, there needs to be seperation when it comes to living arrangements.

    July 1, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. Lowell

    This is America.

    It's supposed to be the land of the free, home of the brave. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.

    At what point will people understand that discrimination of ANY kind should not be allowed?

    To put this in perspective - when an opposing army comes crashing through our borders, shooting everyone in sight, I don't care what our soldiers do in their personal life (as long as it's legal and no one is hurt). You've got someone willing to pick up a gun and defend this country and its citizens, it shouldn't matter if they're gay or straight, Protestant or Catholic, tall or short, fat or skinny - I don't care if they worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster! This is America, and discrimination SHOULD be a thing of the past. It's shameful, embarrassing and a pox on the fact that this IS America!

    July 1, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    One thing I give Bush credit for was assigning Mr. Gates SOD. And I commend President Obama for keeping him on. DADT should be a flexible law, especially in a time of war. As a veteran, there are only 2 reasons why I think DADT is effective. First, it maintains discipline. Secondly, it prevents hate crimes from occuring in the military.

    July 1, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  21. Steve

    How do you "selectively enforce" something like this?

    July 1, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  22. Fair is Fair

    How can anyone... WITH A STRAIGHT FACE... say something is going to be "selectively" enforced? Okay... what other laws are going to be enforced "selectively"????

    I wonder what the CNN Political Ticker's resident law expert, Attorney Sniffit, Esq., has to say about this.

    July 1, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Scott, Tucson

    "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."

    Folks...You can't get anymore wishy-washy than this, talk about fence straddling by Obama and Gates, you either enforce the law or you don't.

    July 1, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. George

    Maybe our legislators should have the same guidlines. At least our service people are truly serving our country. Unlike our legislators.

    July 1, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  25. Retired US ARMY

    Don't ask don't tell is out dated and homophobic. While it was a step in the right direction, if someone can serve because someone was seeking revenge by outing them, then they can serve period. If their conduct creates a problem then there are other provissions of the UCMJ that can be used to deal with them.

    July 1, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
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