Today, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Is ‘Finally and Formally Repealed.’

Today—it is still September 20 here in Texas—”the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed.”

This is President Obama’s entire statement on the occasion:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 20, 2011

Statement by the President on the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans. Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens. Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans. Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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9 Comments

  1. Can anyone explain to me what the rational was for don’t ask don’t tell?

    It never made any sense. It only codified the reality of the first 220 years of military service in the United States. If you were gay you could serve as long as you didn’t admit you were gay, that is as long as you were willing to lie.

    It is hard to figure out exactly who the policy was designed to protect. It seems to have been designed to offer false comfort to those who feel uncomfortable around gays while saying it is perfectly alright to put them around gays.

    Homosexuality is a fact of life. Learn to deal with it. Next problem.

  2. After graduating from college in 1968 I was drafted. It was really easy to escape the draft if you were gay – you simply had to “tell.” Few did this because at that time the rest of your life would be impacted. I enlisted after I was drafted to avoid combat and ended up working for the DIA. My unit consisted mostly of college graduates who acted as interpreters, interrogators and analysts. There were several individuals we knew were gay and it was never a problem. My best friend was gay and he is still one of my best friends today.

  3. Merkin and Ron, thanks for your comments.

    Ron, my best—and only son—is gay, and I am so proud of him…

  4. “Can anyone explain to me what the rational was for don’t ask don’t tell?”

    If my understanding is correct, prior to DADT is was at least desirable and at most compulsory to try and “root out” LGBT people in the armed forces, the way one might root out traitors, those who are on the edge of a breakdown that could compromise safety, or commies. Under the old rules, it was fine to ask, and soldiers were told they had to tell the truth. If someone were, for example, seen going into a bar known to “harbor” gay people, that would be a reason to investigate. The way DADT (which originally had a “don’t investigate” at the end) was conceived was that investigation and simple asking about sexuality was not allowed. This, in theory, should have been an improvement over the earlier way. The problem, besides the fact that the law was still discriminatory, was that the only part of the law that was enforced was the “don’t tell” part. Many, many people were discharged, of course, for telling. Asking and investigating, which continued to happen on a regular basis, obviously, were not prosecuted, and did not result in discharge.

    Sometimes, to move forward, we can simply put one foot in front of another and continue to move towards our goal. Sometimes we need to jump boldly between stones, when small steps in the right direction means we’ll get our boots stuck in the mud. I think Clinton thought DADT was a case of the former when it actually a case of the latter. That’s just my opinion, of course.

    BTW, I am overjoyed to have just received a wedding invitation from one of my best buddies from high school. Both he and his fiance (ETA: male fiance) have been in the Army for the past 10 years. They have been working — at first covertly, and recently more openly — for this day for a long, long time.

  5. I remember when they came up with the policy, it was seen as a “best compromise” between those who wanted to keep gays banned from the military, and those who wanted that ban lifted entirely.

  6. Well finally! It’s about time. (no thanks to all the trapped in the 17th century rightwing culture warriors – who are still out there btw)

  7. Welcome back, Roro.

    Interesting theory.

    I personally—and believing that Clinton honestly wanted to do the best he could under the circumstances at the time—would go with the simpler explanation by ProfElwood.

  8. Hi Dorian, thanks.

    It’s the same theory, really, I just took longer to say it, and fleshed out some details.

  9. As one who vociferously opposed President Clinton’s executive order to end the ban on gays in the military when he first took office, I’m surprised to find myself in agreement on this issue. This was a good outcome. We need all Americans to be willing to serve their country in some capacity, and that includes those who are gay.

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