(CNN) – More than 13,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. President Bill Clinton tried to lift the military's ban on gays altogether in 1993, but settled for the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise amid opposition from Congress and the military. Now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is launching a yearlong study on how to phase out the policy.
Amid the ongoing debate over its effectiveness, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Virginia, said that the number of troops discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" in 2009 was roughly one-third the number dismissed in 2001. "This shows that during wartime, DADT is not being pursued aggressively because one's orientation has nothing to do with their ability to fight," he said in a written statement.
Fact Check: Have discharges related to "don't ask, don't tell" declined significantly since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
- Just before the war in Afghanistan began, the annual number of discharges peaked at 1,227 in 2001, according to Defense Department statistics. The number had topped 1,000 every year prior to that, dating back to 1998.
- After the war in Afghanistan began, those same statistics show the number fell to 885 in 2002.
- Pentagon figures show the discharges dropped to 770 in 2003, the year the Iraq war began. The numbers remained in the 600-700 range every year until 2008, and dropped to 428 in 2009.
Get the bottom line after the jump:
Bottom line: "Don't ask, don't tell" discharges noticeably declined after the Afghan and Iraq wars began. Whether the decline was directly tied gay and lesbian troops' "ability to fight" or simply changing times and a decline in the will to enforce the law is difficult, if not impossible, to determine.
– CNN Supervising Producer Adam Levine contributed to this fact check.