Congress Approves ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

This Memorial Day, thousands of gay and lesbian active-duty and veteran service members—and allies—will be celebrating the historic first steps by lawmakers toward ending the discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" law.

First it was the full U.S. House of Representatives and then the much-anticipated Senate Armed Services Committee who voted 16-to-12 last night in favor of an amendment for future contingent repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT). Despite last-minute lobbying by the Pentagon service chiefs, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined 15 Democrats in approving a conditional repeal of DADT, the discriminatory Clinton-era policy that bans openly gay and lesbian service members.

Sen. Collins, the only Republican to vote for the amendment, said it passed after “vigorous and aggressive debate,” NPR reported.

Seventeen years and 13,000 discharges later, President Barack Obama, who has been criticized for moving too slowly to dismantle the law, made the following statement: “I have long advocated that we repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ and I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight. Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such I am grateful that the amendments offered by Representative Patrick Murphy and Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin that passed today will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process. Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.”

Future repeal is contingent on a deal brokered earlier this week that requires the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group’s report on implementing the change, due Dec. 1, certification signed by the president, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and assurance and that the new policy is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

Rep. Murphy, a U.S. Army Iraq war veteran who introduced the DADT amendment to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act in the House, stated in a release: “Congress took a historic step toward repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and toward ensuring that every American has the same opportunity I did to defend our nation. 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. I will not rest until the repeal of this discriminatory policy that hurts national security is signed into law.”

Aubrey Sarvis, a U.S. Army veteran and executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), echoed these sentiments in a statement. “The U.S. House and Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee both passed a historic roadmap to allowing open military service, but it doesn’t end the discharges. It is important for all gay and lesbian active-duty service members … to know they’re at risk. They must continue to serve in silence under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that remains on the books. Congress and the Pentagon need to stay on track to get repeal finalized, hopefully no later than first quarter 2011.”

Sarvis, one of several activists who crafted the compromise pushing DADT to a vote yesterday, criticized the ninth-hour posturing by Pentagon service chiefs and said they “seemed to have forgotten that they are not the policy makers here. That role in our government rightly belongs to Congress and it was properly exercised today in the dismantling of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

Click here to see previous articles on this topic.


  • About time. Sexuality should be irrlevant to performance of military duty. We successfully integrated women into the military, so we have proven we can professionally conduct ourselves irregardless of our internal sexual preferences. So obviously introducing GLBT at this point should be no significant impact, and no argument.

  • While it is not the immediate halt that many of us in the LGBT community wanted, it is a very important step in the right direction. That it took seventeen years to implement is embarassing to say the least, but maybe we’ll now be on par with the other countries in the world that have no problem with an openly-LGBT individual serving in the Armed Forces.

  • As a gay Veteran who served before DA/DT I’m thrilled to see this. Whether racist, sexist or heterosexist, there should be no policy of discrimination within our government.

  • I guess I am missing something. Prior to DADT, homosexuals were prohibited in serving in the military, period. No ifs ands or buts, no gays, no lesbians. DADT actually allowed gay and lesbians to serve because of the don’t ask portion of DADT. The powers that be were not permitted to ask is someone was homosexual, and in turn the homosexuals were to keep their orientation private.

    So if Don’t As Don’t Tell is repealed are we back to no homosexuals in the military or has that been repealed? That is the part I guess I have missed.

    I do not believe a person’s sexual orientation should be a factor in one’s ability to serve their country. DADT has proved that. I think we forget that DADT was a big step forward. It got us where we needed to be. Back then we were not ready and Thank God we are ready now. Or at least some of us are ready… Stay tuned

  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
    ~Martin Luther King Jr.

    I know this is not the DADT repeal I wanted to see. I wanted to see repeal of DADT that mandates — with a date certain — that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) servicemembers could serve openly. And, this compromise legislation doesn’t guarantee that LGB servicemembers will ever be able to serve openly — this compromise just sets up process can happen.

    In the meantime, LGB servicemembers will continue to be discharged due to sexual orientation; this will still be a national security issue until the discharges stop.

    I have hope, but this legislation is a half-measure, and therefore a disappointment. When about 80% of Americans believe that LGB people should be allowed to serve in the military openly, I don’t understand why there is so much legislative timidity on this issue.

    It does leave me wondering what will happen when the Employment Non-Discrimination Act comes up in the Senate — the bill that’s proposed includes not only sexual orientation, but gender identity as well. So, with transgender people specifically included in the next piece of federal civil rights legislation, I know I’m wondering if we’re going to see real legislative commitment to diversity.

    I don’t know why, but I’m still hopeful.

  • if DADT is repealled and the military is forced to accept openly gay members, what will happen to our alliances in the Middle East and Afghanastan? How will this affect Al Quaida and the Taliban’s recruiting efforts? Homosexual acts are a capital offense in Afghanastan. What is the plan to deal with this? Will gays be exempted from serving in IRAQ and Afghanastan?

« Previous Article     Next Article »