“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Military Repeal Pros and Cons

Sunday, July 10, 2011
Miriam Stevens
Week One Publication
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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Military Repeal Pros and Cons
Photo Source: AP/Bernadette Tuazon “Newly enlisted army recruits, in black shirts, join recruiting officers for a ceremony in New York City.” Found in article by Lawrence J. Korb
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was enacted during the Clinton era.  The policy allowed homosexuals the ability to continue serving in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation hidden.  This non-disclosure lifestyle proved to have an adverse impact on our military, which saw thousands being forced out of serving our country due to their personal sexual preferences.  The repeal of this 1993 act came in a time where our first African American President endorsed this agenda so that homosexuals serving in our armed forces could remain no longer cloaked in secrecy.   In the New York Times December 22, 2010 article, this historic DADT repeal was shared. “On Dec. 18th, 2010, the Senate followed the House in voting to repeal the policy known as don't ask, don't tell, sending the provision to President Obama, who signed it into law on Dec. 22. Since 1993 the policy allowed gays to serve in the military so long as they kept their sexual orientation quiet. More than 17,000 service members were discharged since it was mandated by Congress.”

One source shared how from 1994 thru 2006 over 13000 military personnel with approximately 800 who possessed mission critical skill levels were discharged under the DADT policy.   13,000 military personnel across the services including approximately 800 with skills deemed “mission critical,” such as pilots, combat engineers, and linguists. These are the very specialties for which the military has faced personnel shortfalls in recent years.”

Source: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Below shows a graph of the vote that led to the repeal of the DADT ban against openly homosexuals and lesbians for serving in the military.  According Carl Husle New York Time, article the ban was removed with a bi-partisan vote, “by a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.”

Click here to view how the vote was cast in congress to repeal the DADT ban.

DADT Repeal Rally at The White House - May 2, 2011 (Photo Source by Jamie McGonnigal, Equalityphotography.com)

Prior to the repeal openness about ones homosexual and lesbian relationships was taboo. Enormous stress was felt by many closet gays who had entire careers at risk for fear of losing their pensions, benefits and livelihood.  One up close and personal video photo view showcasing the impact of some gays in the military is viewed in the project, The Author Speaks, by photographer Jeff Sheng.  He discusses the topic in his book, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell”, which is viewable the below video produced by Simone S. Oliver and recorded by Stephanie Diani.

Vice President, Joe Biden’s speech transcripts articulated why the repeal as a victory for the United Sates and how repealing DADT resulted in favorable outcomes not only for our military but nation as a whole.  Below are three main points emphasized why lifting the ban was necessary:

1.     National security was weakened by the ban

2.     Military readiness was diminished

3.     Fundamental American principle of fairness and equality were violated

A video of his entire speech is located on the White House Blog online site.


One current poll online through U.S. News & World Report shows there are still some who do not support the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell see below screen shot of the results.


Although there are many who celebrated when the repeal was done, still some considered this to be a breach against their personal and religious beliefs.  An opponent of this ban was voiced from Keith Johnson.  Keith is a petty officer first class with the Coast Guard and a former Marine who shared in the New York Times article by James Dao his concerns.  He opposed homosexuality based on his personal religious views and thought repealing the ban would hurt morale, “if I don’t know, it’s a whole lot better than someone parading it around in my face and me having to deal with it.”
Along with Johnson, others serving in the military do not agree with the lifting of the DADT ban.  Some felt leaving the policy the way it was presented the best option.  Their views shared that it would cause disruption in military life especially in barrack quarters. Marine Maj. Eric Thompson, 35, a land domain chief with U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado opposed lifting the ban.  In the Air Force Times article by William H. McMichael and Brendan McGarry, Thompson expressed his concerns, “I just don’t think we need to experiment with what happens when we have openly gay soldiers in the barracks and in the trenches overturning the current ban could disrupt unit cohesion, camaraderie and teamwork.”
One point for keeping the DADT standard was the possibility of a violent after effect due to the camaraderie of those who are strongly opposed to the gay and lesbian lifestyle now having to be forced to live in close quarters with fellow service persons who are open in their sexual orientation.  The argument of religion and morality also tied to the possibility of adverse ramifications once some units have their fellow peers come out of the closet.  Therefore, the call for a smooth transition and appropriate training is a high priority.   Army Lt. Col. Tim Duffy, a 25-year veteran and military policeman shared, “If not undertaken very carefully, I suspect that there will be instances of violence … that will lead to loss of life on some scale. And, you know, that’s already happened in some cases and I suspect that … there will be a period of adjustment, potentially violent.”

Also, another military personnel mentioned her concerns in the AFT article stating things should remain as they are to not cause disruptions.  Army Maj. Christina Bembenek, a military intelligence officer, shared  “I think the law is fine as it is even though it’s not a perfect solution, but better than opening it up.”  She further sites although while at work her gay and lesbian peers may perform their job functions, having it forced upon you at social functions does affect overall unit. “It’s one thing when everybody’s in uniform, you’re at work … if this guy’s gay, no big deal,” she said. “But when he walks in with his boyfriend in civilian clothes to the restaurant that you’re having your [unit] dining-in at, that’s a very different thing.”

Other points of concerns for those opposed to the repeal of the DADT policy was the sexual promiscuity lifestyle found in the homosexual community.  This point was also shared in the AFT article by a gay Navy commander who admitted a gay man’s sexual interest towards other men presents a concern and could prove to be uncomfortable for straight servicemen.  A gay Navy commander-select based in San Diego said sexual drive behaviors is a concern because of the nature of the typical gay lifestyle. “It’s shockingly promiscuous,” he said. “Men are sexual beings. … I walk down the street and I’ll look at guys, just like a straight man will walk down the street and look at a woman. The difference being, we’re not sharing the same berthing as that woman. That’s definitely an issue. And there’s no easy solution for that.”

Regarding the repeal of the DADT policy even retired officers shared concerns that could disrupt the effectiveness of our current military way of life.  In The Washington Post February 2, 2010 issue before the repeal was enacted (Ret.) Col. Dave Bedey, Fmr. Faculty Member, U.S. Military Academy at West Point shared the following concerns: 

“(Ret.) Col. Dave Bedey: The repeal of DADT poses two related risks to our military effectiveness. The first, and most familiar, has to do with unit cohesion. Unit cohesion is the bond the enables combat effectiveness. It is founded on sharing a common purpose and being willing to subordinate self to the needs of the unit. The effect on unit cohesion is hard to judge-but in the profession opinion of most retired generals and admirals who have weighed in on this issue; unit cohesion would be put at risk. The second risk is to the military community-which includes military families that live together. The military community is much more conservative and attached to traditional values than is society at large. Given the President's endorsement of full federal rights to same-sex couples, it is not unreasonable to think that this would include access to family housing on base. Our military communities ought not become embroiled in this aspect of the culture war. This will degrade our military effectiveness.”

A potential presidential candidate Pawlenty is a staunch supporter of reinstating the DADT ban and shares his views below in a transcript found from Right Wing Watch article by Kyle Mantyla.  Below are excerpts of his response when asked if he would reinstate the DADT ban and you can also hear his comments AFA’s Bryan Fisher’s interview and You Tube video.

“Pawlenty: Bryan, I have been a public and repeat supporter of maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There are a lot of reasons for that, but if you look at how the combat commanders and the combat units feel about it, the results of those kinds of surveys were different than the ones that were mostly reported in the newspaper and that is something I think we need to pay attention to. But I have been a public supporter of maintaining Don't Ask, Don't Tell and I would support reinstating it as well.”

There are many points of views from those who have been directly impacted by the DADT ban as well as those opposing the lift of the DADT ban.  One thing that is apparent is the need for an effective military and smooth transition since the repeal has occurred.   The administrations commitment to ensuring that smooth transition is viewed in a comprehensive report that focuses on training and the next steps of implementing the new policy for allowing gays and lesbians the right to serve in the military without fear of repercussions.  To review the comprehensive study enacted by the Obama administration focusing on the issues associated with the repeal of the DADT policy, you can view the Pentagon Study document online.  

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For further reading the DADT pros and cons please check out this AJC.com article, which is an opinion piece but offers very good narrative on each side of the DADT Pros and Cons viewpoints.

Another good follow-up piece and related article on the DADT Military repeal debate is linked to this article “Is It Time to Repeal the Ban on Gays in the Military?” By U.S. News Staff Posted: June 29, 2009 http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2009/06/29/is-it-time-to-repeal-the-ban-on-gays-in-the-military

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