The current opinion on homosexuality in the military is very clear: it is unwelcome. This law, commonly referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (P.L. 130-160 H.R. 2401). It stated that if a service member is found to be homosexual, he or she will be immediately discharged. The service member can be probed about his or her sexual orientation if an officer has a reason to question his or her heterosexuality. However, as long as it is kept hidden, homosexuals can remain in the military.
During this project, my partner and I will be lobbying to have this policy repealed. It is blatant discrimination and homophobia, which should not be tolerated by the U.S. government. The men and women who serve this country should not be forced to hid pieces of their identities for fear of being discharged. President Obama’s promise to repeal this policy has further sparked my interest in it and increased my hope of success.
Earlier this year, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) proposed legislation that would repeal DADT, stating on his website “To exclude one group of Americans from serving in the armed forces is contrary to our fundamental principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and weakens our defenses by denying our military the service of a large group of Americans who can help our cause.” Unfortunately, the Defence Authorization Bill for 2011, which included this repeal, was filibustered by Republicans on September 21st. Sen. Lieberman has made it clear that he will revisit the legislation after this year’s elections.
Many Democrats support the repeal, including Ms. Ellen Tauscher, who previously served as a House representative from California and was recently appointed to Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. She proposed similar legislation last year, but failed to make gains on the issue.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) is leading the opposition. Currently, McCain only opposes the bill so long as the Pentagon does. “It is a blatant message of disrespect to our men and women in uniform that Congress is unwilling to even wait to hear what the force has to say on this important matter before pushing ahead with a controversial, political vote two months before an election.” The Pentagon has launched a study on whether the repeal would have a negative effect on military readiness. An affirmative result would be a victory for Republicans who argue that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would diminish military cohesiveness and discipline.
However, the future does hold promise. The younger generation is more heavily in support of repealing the 17 year old policy. According to a poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion, almost 60% of Americans would like to see DADT overturned. Even more influential, the Federal District Court of California ruled that DADT violates 1st and 5th Amendment rights. This ruling is seen by many proponents as a catalyst for change. Hopefully, they are right.