The battle for the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is getting more press. CNN reports top civilian military officials claim the last time a member of the U.S. Armed Services was discharged for being gay was Oct 21. Typically, the military expels about eight troops per week under the controversial policy. The change comes as officers of higher rank are becoming more responsible for such cases. Civilian leaders in the Department of Defense now handle “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” decisions instead of uniformed personnel. In 2009, 428 service members were discharged under the policy.
The history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” can be traced back to President Bill Clinton’s first term in office. Here’s a look at the most dramatic decisions in the military’s stance on gays since the policy was first implemented.
Congress Takes Control
Before Congress decided to take matters into its own hands in 1993, allowing gays in the military was solely decided by the president. The University of California-Davis states that as Commander-in-Chief, the president could order the military to allow or disallow gays as he saw fit. When Bill Clinton promised to overturn the ban, top military leaders were publicly against the change, according to Time magazine.
The Republican-led Congress wrote the law, claiming if you are gay and in the military, service members should not say anything. The law also stated commanding officers were not allowed to ask anyone if they were gay.
Army Cadet Resigns
One of the United States Military Academy’s brightest young minds resigned in August amidst the controversy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” ABC News reports 20-year-old Katherine Miller resigned her post because she found “military service to be incompatible with personal values.”
Miller was ninth in her sophomore class of 1,157 cadets and had completed U.S. Army Airborne School. Miller’s resignation was perhaps one of the most high-profile cases of someone leaving the military under the policy because she resigned, as opposed to being drummed out. The fact that Miller was adept in her studies also made her situation more press-worthy.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips made a ruling in October which overturned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” as she claimed the law was unconstitutional based upon previous gay rights rulings. Time magazine reports the military scrambled to tell recruiting stations about changes to the law.
Until the Justice Department asked her to delay making her ruling, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed temporarily. The Obama administration has put pressure on Congress to repeal the law since Congress instituted the policy in 1993.
Future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Pundits are worried when the new Congress takes control in January the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will not happen. The Washington Post reports hopes for overturning the law in this current lame-duck session are fading as Republicans are demanding financial bills be brought forth first before any other legislation is considered.
Even though a recent Pentagon study has found 70 percent of the military finds allowing openly gay recruits into their ranks won’t hurt the Armed Forces, Senate Republicans and some military leaders are still opposed to changing the measure. A repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” likely won’t happen in the next two years if Republicans in Congress have their way.
Shaughnessy, Larry, “Pentagon: No ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ discharges in several weeks,” CNN.com.
University of California-Davis, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Historical Context.”
Thompson, Mark, “Reexamining ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”Time.
Wetenhall, John, “Top Ranked Lesbian Cadet Leaves West Point,” ABC News.
Lindenberger, Michael A. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: An End to Court Deference to the Military?”Time.
O’Keefe, Ed, and Ben Pershing, “GOP plan threatens efforts to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,”Washington Post.