About “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law was enacted in 1993 and the path to its repeal was set in motion in December 2010 by Congress and President Barack Obama. DADT officially ended September 20, 2011. The following is an overview of the repeal process and a brief history of the DADT law.
On July 22, 2011, the President signed and transmitted to the congressional Armed Services Committee a written certification, also signed by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:
(A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report’s proposed plan of action.
(B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).
(C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially ended September 20, 2011, 60 days after the date of certification.
PRESIDENTIAL BILL SIGNING:
On December 22, 2010, the President signed the stand-alone bill approved by both houses. However, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remains the law until September 20, 2011, and service members can still be discharged. Read SLDN’s warnings: www.sldn.org/StillAtRisk.
On July 22, 2011, Mullen President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, formally issued their certification to the Armed Services committees of both houses of Congress, signifying that the military is ready for the transition to final repeal, which took place on September 20, 2011.
On July 6, 2011, several anti-LGBT equality amendments were introduced for the House Defense Appropriations bill for 2012. Visit our blog post about these three amendments to learn more. On July 7, the Foxx amendment -- which bans federal funding in this bill from being used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- passed the House by a vote of 248-175. The House Defense Appropriations bill passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate, where it is not expected to be brought for a vote.
On June 23, 2011, the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) committee report was filed after the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) unanimously passed its version of the NDAA on June 16. SASC approved this bill without including amendments that were added to the House's NDAA on May 12, 2011, which would disrupt DADT repeal, as well as restate and expand DOMA (read below).
Additionally, SASC moved to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) relating to sodomy and to amend Article 120 of the UCMJ. These actions, long advocated by SLDN and others, including the Cox Commission and the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG), were landmark changes important to all service members, straight and gay. The Senate's version of the NDAA has been placed on the Senate calendar and is expected to be on the Senate floor later this summer or early autumn.
On May 25, 2011, the full House passed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included the harmful language described below (from Reps. Hunter, Hartzler, Akin). To see how your representative voted, visit this link. Once the Senate votes on their version of the NDAA, both versions will need to be combined, with the differing language worked out and compromised. This is done “in conference” between both House and Senate, and this is where the next opportunity will come to defeat the harmful language described below.
On May 12, 2011, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) voted to add three harmful amendments to the NDAA aimed at delaying and derailing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) repeal implementation. Here is a link to the representatives on the HASC. To see how they voted on these amendments, read below:
Hunter amendment (to expand certification to service chiefs): Ayes 33, noes 27. All Republicans except for Rep. Todd Platts (PA-19) and Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-20) voted aye. All Democrats except for Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC-7) voted no.
Hartzler amendment (to restate DOMA): Ayes 39, noes 22. All Republicans, and Democrats Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC-7), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (TX-16), Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (GU), and Rep. Larry Kissell (NC-8) voted aye. No Republicans, and the rest of the Democrats voted no.
Akin amendment (to expand DOMA): Ayes 38, noes 23. All Republicans, and Democrats Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC-7), Rep. Larry Kissell (NC-8), and Rep. Mark Critz (PA-12) voted aye. No Republicans, and the rest of the Democrats voted no.
THE PENTAGON WORKING GROUP REPORT AND HEARINGS:
On November 30, 2010, (one day before its December 1 deadline), the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group submitted its report to Congress and the Secretary of Defense. The working group was established to author a report on “how” to implement repeal, not “if” repeal should happen.
Findings from the survey show that repeal would not negatively impact military readiness or effectiveness. When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.” When asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Pentagon report co-authors General Carter Ham and Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson on December 2. A second hearing with Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman General James Cartwright and the chiefs of each military branch was held on December 3. All service chiefs confirmed that their branches could implement repeal.
SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Gay, lesbian and bisexual service members with questions on repeal are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100.
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.”
TIMELINE FOR REPEAL
- November 30, 1993: President Bill Clinton signed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) into law, which mandates the discharge of openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members.
- 2001: The number of service members fired under DADT reaches 1273, the highest number of discharges in a single year to date.
- December 6, 2004: SLDN filed the Cook v. Gates lawsuit on behalf of 12 service members discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" who were seeking reinstatement in the military.
- March 2, 2005: Rep. Marty Meehan, (D-MA) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA) to repeal DADT.
- February 14, 2006: A Blue Ribbon Commission estimated that DADT cost the Pentagon at least $363.8 million to implement during its first 10 years.
- July 23, 2008: SLDN worked with repeal coalition partners to organize the first DADT hearing in the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) since 1993.
- July 2008: 75 percent of Americans -- including 64 percent of Republicans -- said they think gays who publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military (Washington Post).
- June 2009: For the first time, a clear majority of conservatives and weekly churchgoers expressed support for repeal of DADT (Gallup).
- January 27, 2010: President Obama pledged in his State of the Union speech to work with Congress to end DADT that year.
- February 2, 2010: Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) they wanted repeal to happen that year.
- March 3, 2010: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced the first-ever bill in the Senate to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
- March 29, 2010: New guidance (DoD Instruction 1332.14, "Enlisted Administrative Separations DoD," and DoD Instruction 1332.30, "Separation of Regular and Reserve Commissioned Officers") issued requiring the following: DADT investigations must be approved by O-7 or higher; Inquiry Officer must be O-5 or higher; and separation must be approved by O-7 or higher. The new guidance also better defined “credible information” and “reliable source,” while establishing some confidentiality for statements made to lawyers, psychotherapists, and clergy.
- May 27, 2010: the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 234 to 194 that would lead to the repeal of DADT.
- The SASC added an identical provision in the bill it reported to the Senate the same day.
- September 21, 2010: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) filibustered the entire NDAA, which included DADT repeal, and did so again on December 9.
- October 21, 2010: Memo issued from Secretary of Defense Gates with memo from Under Secretary Stanley requiring that any discharge under DADT be personally approved by the Secretary of the military department concerned, in coordination with DoD General Counsel and Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness.
- November 30, 2010: The Pentagon released the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) report, which examined the impact of repeal implementation on the armed forces.
- December 15, 2010: The House passed a stand-alone DADT bill, 250-175. This bill reflected the language of the repeal provision in the NDAA.
- December 18, 2010: The Senate passed the House’s stand-alone DADT bill, 65-31.
- December 22, 2010: President Obama signed the bill allowing for repeal of DADT. However, repeal has yet to be certified, and "Don't Ask" remains the law. DADT repeal legislation passed by Congress requires the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “certify” that the military is ready for repeal, which will not take place until 60 days after the date certification is issued.
- July 22, 2011: President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen certified that the U.S. military is ready for DADT repeal.
- September 20, 2011: Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" officially went into effect.
- More than 14,000 service members have been fired under the law since 1993.