Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Timeline/ Compliments of Iraq Veterans of Americaby Michael Patrick Brewer on Dec. 03, 2010, under Veterans Benefits
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy
Recently, a lot has been happening in Washington around the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. Check out our interactive timeline to get the history and the latest, including what’s been said by key politicians and military leaders.
President Truman issues Executive Order 9981, establishing “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”
A Navy study, commonly referred to as the Crittenden Report, finds that “homosexual service members [do] not pose a greater security risk than heterosexual personnel.” Click here to read the whole report.
The Pentagon issues DOD Directive 1332.14 outlining its policy on homosexuals in the military, stating that, “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” At this time, questions about sexual orientation were standard on military recruitment forms, and any acknowledgement of homosexuality was grounds for automatic rejection.
Supreme Court rules in Bowers v. Hardwick that there is no fundamental right to engage in consensual homosexual sodomy. This ruling has been used to uphold the military’s constitutional right to discharge a servicemember for homosexual behavior.
The Defense Personnel Security Research and Education Center (PERSEREC) issued two reports examining whether homosexual servicemembers posed security risks or were unsuitable for service. The reports “found no data to support the ban on gays in the military.”
Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two is published, fueling the debate surrounding a change in policy regarding homosexuals serving in the military.
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton promises to “lift the ban” on homosexuals serving in the military, if elected.
Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler is brutally murdered in Japan by shipmates in an anti-gay hate crime and ignites conversation regarding the military’s policy on homosexuals in the military.
Senate begins debate of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, marking the first attempt to address the issue of homosexuals in the military during the Clinton Administration.
The Senate and House Armed Services Committees hold extensive hearings on the military’s homosexual policy.
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin says that “As a general rule, the department has long held that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. Nevertheless, the department also recognizes that homosexuals have served with distinction in the Armed Forces of the United States.” Aspin states, “[The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy] represents a real step forward while protecting a strong, ready-to-fight military force. And as [President Clinton] put it, the policy, quote, “provides a sensible balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of our military.”
ADM. Frank Kelso (Chief, Naval Operations, US Navy) and GEN. Gordon Sullivan (Chief of Staff, US Army) believe homosexuality breaks down unit cohesion and trust. Senator Nunn concurs that the ban on gays should not be removed.
Congressional consensus begins to emerge over a new approach described by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Under this proposed policy, DOD would not ask individuals looking to enlist in the military questions about sexual orientation and servicemembers would be required to keep their sexual orientation to themselves, at the risk of discharge or denial of enlistment.
President Clinton announces the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and issues DOD Directive 1304.26, which outlines new enlistment standards.
President Clinton signs the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act into law, which includes the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Defense Secretary Les Aspin releases official DOD regulations to implement the new law.
The Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Andrew Holmes v. California Army National Guard.
PFC Barry Winchell is brutally murdered by SPC Justin Fisher after an argument breaks out about Winchell’s romantic involvement with a transsexual.
As a result of the murder, in December 1999, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen expands the description of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass.”
The DOD Inspector General releases its survey findings on “Military Environment with Respect to the Homosexual Conduct Policy.” The survey revealed that 80 percent of respondents had heard offensive anti-gay speech in the last year, and 37 percent reported witnessing negative behavior towards suspected homosexual servicemembers.
Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson and former Judge Advocate General of the Navy publishes an article in the National Law Journal calling for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He was one the of the first prominent military officers to unambiguously call for a repeal of DADT.
The Government Accountability Office releases its report on the financial costs and loss of critical skills as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Among the key findings, during fiscal year 1994 through fiscal year 2003, the military services separated approximately 9,500 servicemembers for homosexual conduct at a cost of $95 million to replace them.
Supreme Court rules in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. that under the Solomon Amendment, the federal government could constitutionally withhold funding from universities that refuse military recruiters access to school resources.
Some schools were denying military recruiters access to their campuses based on the school’s opposition to military policy on gay and lesbian servicemembers.
Retired Army General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili reverses his position and calls for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a New York Times Op-Ed.
Disabled Iraq veteran Eric Alva and Rep. Marty Meehan call for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Congressman Marty Meehan targets repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and reintroduces the Military Readiness Act.
General Peter Pace, then-Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, expressing his personal views, calls homosexuality immoral.
In response to calls for repeal, President George W. Bush states, “I do believe the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is good policy.”
Twenty-eight retired U.S. generals and admirals release a statement urging Congress to repeal the current ban on openly gay troops.
Senator Obama releases an open letter stating his support for equality for all Americans, and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In response to a question from Fareed Zarkaria about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Powell states:
“We definitely should reevaluate it. It’s been fifteen years since we put in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was a policy that became a law. I didn’t want it to become a law, but it became a law. Congress felt that strongly about it. But it’s been fifteen years and attitudes have changed. And so I think it is time for the Congress, since it is their law, to have a full review of it and I am quite sure that is what President-Elect Obama will want to do.”
White House Press Secretary Gibbs states that President Obama will repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but acquiesces that there are more important issues to address first, including the economy.
The Flag & General Officers for the Military sent an open letter expressing support for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to President Barack H. Obama and Members of Congress. The letter was accompanied by the signatures of 1,050 flag and general officers from all branches of the service.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) reintroduces the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In response to a question asking if he would support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Powell states, “If Congress decided to get rid of the policy and if the military leaders of the armed forces are a part of that, of course I would. And if the President decided to do it, I would support the President.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) withdraws amendment preventing military from using money to enforce “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from the Defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010. The amendment would have prohibited any funds in the appropriations bill from being used to investigate or discharge servicemembers because of the sexual orientation. The amendment was withdrawn due to pressure from other Members of Congress and the White House.
While some members of Congress move to support repeal of DADT, others such as Senator Lindsey Graham, a prosecutor in the Air Force Reserve, (R-SC) support the policy. Sen. Graham stated: “’Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ is a policy I think has served the country well. Why should we change it? I’m not going to be persuaded to change military policy by a bunch of political activists. If the military leadership tells me that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ needs to be changed, I’ll certainly be open-minded to that.”
Air Force Colonel Om Prakash criticizes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a published article that would go on to win the Secretary of Defense National Security Essay competition for 2009. He argues that it is unsound for many reasons, including the complete lack of scientific basis for the proposition that unit cohesion is compromised by the presence of openly gay personnel.
During a speech, President Obama reiterates that he will end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but provides no timeline for its repeal.
During a CNN interview, Rep. Joe Sestak—a retired Vice Admiral—stated, “We should have done away with [“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”] years ago.
Rep. Joe Sestak has collected more than one thousand signatures on his petition calling for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In response to President Obama’s promise to allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr. (R-CA), a U.S. Marine Corp veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, stated: “For one, it would directly impact readiness and operability, a concern that is shared by more than 1,000 retired officers.”
Rep. Hunter also believes changing current policy would be disruptive, according to his spokesman Joe Kasper.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama states, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Gates said:
“I fully support the President’s decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it. We received our orders from the Commander in Chief and we are moving out accordingly. However, we can also take this process only so far, as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress.”
“I am mindful of the fact, as are you, that unlike the last time this issue was considered by the Congress more than 15 years ago, our military is engaged in two wars that have put troops and their families under considerable stress and strain. I am mindful as well that attitudes towards homosexuality may have changed considerably, both in society generally and in the military, over the intervening years.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Mullen said:
“The Chiefs and I are in complete support of the approach that Secretary Gates has outlined. We believe that any implementation plan for a policy permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces must be carefully derived, sufficiently thorough, and thoughtfully executed. Over these last 2 months, we have reviewed the fundamental premises behind ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ as well as its application in practice over the last 16 years. We understand perfectly the President’s desire to see the law repealed and we owe him our best military advice about the impact of such a repeal and the manner in which we would implement a change in policy.”
“Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.”
At the same Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Vietnam veteran Senator John McCain said:
“Our men and women in uniform are fighting two wars, guarding the front lines against a global terrorist enemy, serving and sacrificing on battlefields far from home, and working to rebuild and re- form the force after more than 8 years of conflict. At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ policy.”
‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ has been an imperfect but effective policy, and at this moment, when we’re asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law.”
In response to Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen’s testimony, Vietnam veteran Senator Jim Webb emphasizes that although the final decision may rest with Congress, it is critical to receive input from servicemembers in operating units:
“I think that when you say that this is something that will ultimately be decided by the Congress, I’d also like to emphasize my own agreement with what you have been saying about how important it is to hear from people who are serving, because whether the ultimate decision might be here with the Congress, that decision can’t be made in a proper way without a full and open input from all of those who are serving, not just combatant commanders—family members, people who are in the operating units.”
“The way that I am hearing this, which I would agree with, is that we have a duty here in a very proper way to understand the impact of this on operating units, to raise the level of understanding of the complexity of this issue among the American people and up here, as well as attempting to deal fairly with this issue. So again, I salute you both for a very responsible and careful approach to how we examine this.”
Secretary Gates sends a memo ordering a Comprehensive Review for the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a result of the President’s State of the Union. He starts a working group to conduct the review and “examine the issues associated with repeal of the law should it occur and will include an implementation plan that addresses the impacts, if any, on the Department.” The report is due: December 1, 2010
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) introduces legislation that will repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The bottom line is that we have a volunteer military. If Americans want to serve, they ought to have the right to be considered for that service regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Repealing the current policy will allow more patriotic Americans to defend our national security and live up to our nation’s founding values of freedom and opportunity.”
Senator John McCain states his opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at a Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Mr. Chairman, as I have stated before, I am proud of and thankful for every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve their country, particularly in this time of war. The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is not perfect, but it reflects a compromise achieved with great difficulty that has effectively supported military readiness. However imperfect, the policy has allowed many gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country. I honor their service, I honor their sacrifices, and I honor them. We should not change the current policy until we are confident – from a military stand point, with the informed advice of the Service Chiefs – that such a change is consistent with military effectiveness.”
Defense Secretary Gates announces new rules mandating that only flag officers may initiate discharge proceedings under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and requiring more stringent evidence be used during the discharge proceedings.
In a letter solicited by Senator McCain, the Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines urged Congress to delay voting on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until after December 1, 2010–by which time the Pentagon will have completed their report. Gen. George Casey, Jr., the Army Chief of Staff, stated in his letter, “repealing the law before the completion of the review will be seen by the men and women of the Army as a reversal of our commitment to hear their views before moving forward.”
- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, Jr.’s Letter to Sen. John McCain
- Chief of Naval Operations Admiral G. Roughead’s Letter to Rep. Howard P. McKeon
- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz’s Letter to Rep. Howard P. McKeon
- Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway’s Letter to Sen. John McCain
Congressman Patrick Murphy—the first Iraq War veteran to serve in Congress—introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that would repeal the relevant sections of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law sixty days after a study by the U.S. Department of Defense is completed and the U.S. Defense Secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the U.S. President certify that repeal would not harm military effectiveness.
Murphy said, “Patriotic Americans willing to take a bullet for their country should never be forced to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.”
The House of Representatives passed the amendment by a 234-194 vote.
Secretary Gates tells all troops that any potential repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will not take place until a high-level review is complete and the President and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all certify that the department is ready to make the change without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness, and recruiting and retention.
Rep. Duncan Hunter—a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—believes “the debate on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is just another distraction from [real military threats] and other priorities.
The Pentagon sends out a confidential survey to 400,000 active-duty and reserve servicemembers to determine their views on the impact of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
US District Judge Virginia Phillips rules that the prohibition on gay servicemembers serving openly is unconstitutional because it violates the First and Fifth Amendment rights of gays and lesbians. Judge Phillips states that the policy has a ‚Äúdirect and deleterious effect‚Äù on the armed services and hurts recruitment during wartime due to the discharge of servicemembers with critical skills and training.
The injunction issued by Judge Phillips ends the military’s ban on openly gay troops serving in the military that has existed for 17 years.
The Pentagon informs military recruiters that they must abide by Judge Phillips’ court ruling, which overturned the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and accept gay applicants; however, recruiters must inform potential recruits that the policy could be reinstated at any moment.
The Obama administration files a request with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Phillips’ lower court injunction banning enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The administration believes that the policy should be repealed through Congress.
The appeals court temporarily blocks Judge Phillips’ ruling in the appeal of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 10-56634, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The appeals court indefinitely extends the stay on Judge Phillips’ ruling and orders the administration to continue to enforce “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until the appeal is heard.
“We believe that prudence mandates restraint until the final judgment is entered,” says the court.
The court also mentions four other federal appeals court cases that cast doubt on whether Phillips exceeded her authority and ignored existing legal precedents when she concluded gays could not serve in the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” without having their First Amendment rights breached.
Judge William Fletcher dissents, wishing to hear arguments before issuing a stay.
At a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, release the recommendations of the working group tasked with reviewing issues related to the possible repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy. Secretary Gates recommends, on the basis of the working group report, that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy be repealed.
The survey conducted by the working group reveals that more than two-thirds of the military does not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. However, data does indicate that servicemembers with combat arms specialties expressed a higher level of discomfort and resistance to changing the current policy.
Senate Armed Services Committee holds hearings on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, the co-chairs of the DOD working group and the service chiefs on the working group report and DADT repeal.
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