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Pentagon’s Easing of Regulations Major Step Toward Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul DeMiglio

March 25, 2010
(202) 621-5408 or pdemiglio@sldn.org

Pentagon’s Easing of Regulations Major Step Toward Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Defense Department Adopts Several SLDN Recommendations

Washington, D.C. – Today the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network expressed support for Department of Defense's regulatory changes designed to reduce the number of discharges under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. Under new guidelines announced by Secretary Gates, anonymous tips, hearsay and privileged statements made in confidence to doctors and other medical professionals and clergy -- previously among the reasons gay and lesbian service members were discharged-can no longer be used to spark a DADT investigation.

“The regulatory changes announced today are another major step forward in making the 1993 ban less draconian," said Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN executive director. "These changes underscore what Sec. Gates said on February 2 and again today: the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is inevitable-it's a matter of how to repeal the law, not whether to do so.”

The Defense Department adopted three of five of SLDN's recommendations outlined to Sec Gates back in July 2009. The Department did not address the Witt standard.

Under the Pentagon's new criteria, complaints of DADT violations must come from a person who gives a statement under oath. Only a general or admiral may initiate a fact-finding inquiry. The reporting person must also be credible.

“We are especially pleased that the undue burden gay and lesbian troops carry around with them every day has been lessened. At least a gay service member can divulge his or her sexuality to a physician or therapist without fear of getting fired. Service members can also report domestic abuse without the fear of being discharged.”

Service members should be aware that these new rules go into effect today.

“Let's not forget that gay and lesbian troops are fired for reasons other than third-party outings,” Sarvis said. “The Pentagon will continue to process hundreds of DADT discharges this year and thousands of service members will leave the services on their own because of DADT. This is why Congress must step up to the plate and repeal the law this year to bring these discharges to zero.”

SLDN is disappointed that the Pentagon continues to ignore the 9th Circuit Court’s decision in Witt v. Dep’t of Air Force. Under the Witt standard, before discharging a gay or lesbian service member, the military must show that he or she is a detriment to morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion. Not only has DoD declined to apply Witt uniformly throughout the military, as SLDN urged last year, but it has apparently taken no steps to comply with that decision where it clearly does apply — to the Air Force in the Ninth Circuit. This means that service members will continue to be discharged without any showing that they are a detriment to the readiness of the armed forces.

SLDN continues to urge President Obama and the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal language in the defense authorization budget in May while the Pentagon Working Group continues to examine how to implement open service.

Service members must keep in mind these announced changes do not allow them to serve openly under current law without risk of discharge. Contact legal@sldn.org or call 202.328.3244 (ext. 100) to learn how to serve under this new guidance.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A journalists’ guide is available here.

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