An end to “Don’t ask, don’t tell?”
Since 1993, the policy of the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard) toward gay service members has been called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Based on federal law, the policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of a service member, but bans those who are gay from serving openly.
Men and women in the military who acknowledge being gay or discovered engaging in homosexual activity, even in the privacy of their homes off-base, are subject to discharge. Approximately 13,000 troops have been discharged over the past 17 years under DADT.
In October, 2010, following a two-week nonjury trial in San Diego, California, federal judge Virginia Phillips declared the law unconstitutional.* She issued a worldwide injunction banning the enforcement of the policy. Judge Phillips said the law violates the free speech and due process rights of service members. The White House and Department of Justice have 60 days to appeal the decision.
Depending on whether appeals are filed or not, the case may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court within the next year or two. There is one appellate level between the federal trial court and the Supreme Court, so it will take awhile to reach the highest court. A request to stay the decision pending further appeals was denied on October 19, 2010. The Pentagon announced that it would abide by the decision.
Update: On December 22, 2010, DADT was repealed. In signing the bill sent to him by Congress, President Obama stated that “Our people sacrificed a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.” Some of the members discharged under DADT are expected to re-enlist.
As an example of the impact of the repeal of DADT, a long-time Navy tradition was broken on December 21, 2011. When a ship returns to port after months at sea, the “first kiss” to loved ones is reserved to one sailor. This coveted tradition was given to Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta who stepped off the USS Oak Hill and met her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, and shared a kiss while standing in the rain. Both ladies are from California and were separated for eight months during the Oak Hill’s deployment.
*Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, and Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense.
The mission of the Log Cabin Republicans is to work within the Republican Party to advocate for equal rights for all Americans, including gays and lesbians.