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Don't Ask, Don't Tell


Former Service Members Tell Their Don't Ask, Don't Tell Stories

Former service members Anthony Woods, of Viginia, Stacy Vasquez, of Texas, and Todd Belok, of Connecticut, listen during a news conference on the repeal of the US military's don't ask don't tell policy for gays and lesbians serving in the military.

© Brendan Smialowski/Getty
The US military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, signed by former president Bill Clinton in 1993, policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."

In 1992, the death of Seaman Allen Schindler brought the issue of gay service members into the public arena. Pres. Clinton introduced the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy under compromise with legislators who opposed a complete repeal of the 1982 Department of Defense Directive 1332.14, the military's prior ban on gays in the military.

Established under the premise of privacy, discretion and protection, the policy bans gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people from serving in the military and prevents military officials from asking probing questions or pursuing investigations of soldiers suspected of being homosexuals. Any servicemember that openly reveals their homosexuality through words or actions are discharged from service.

Latest Developments

In March of 2009, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, legislation that would lift the don't ask, don't tell policy. Senate Democrats have vowed to bring a quick end to ban on gays in the military and they have the public behind them. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 75% of Americans support gays serving openly in the military. 73 percent of military personnel are also comfortable with lesbians and gays (Zogby International, 2006).

The Pentagon, however, has called for a lengthy review of the policy.

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The debate over the don't ask, don't tell policy has escalated in recent years as lgbt equality reaches the political forefront. Supporters of don't ask, don't tell are convinced that the compromise is enough to protect the privacy and comfort of heterosexual soldiers, while opponents argue that the current policy offers little or no protection for gays.

According to Servicemember's Legal Defense Network, an advocacy organization for LGBT military personnel, over 12,500 servicemembers have been discharged from the U.S. military since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was signed into law (1993) and enacted in 1994. More about discharges under don't ask, don't tell after the jump.

In 2006, the Pentagon removed "homosexuality" from its list of unsuitable soldiers in its Defense Department Instruction manual. The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from their list in 1973.

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