Ten Years of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: A Disservice to the Nation
The decade under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been a disservice to our country and to the people who serve in our Armed Forces.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has deprived our Armed Forces of the skills, talent, experience and commitment of nearly 10,000 personnel discharged under the law.
It has deprived us of untold numbers of young Americans who have chosen not to serve or who have cut short their careers in the military because of the ban. The ban demands self-denial far beyond the already substantial sacrifices expected of uniformed personnel and their families.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forces gay military personnel to live a lie as a condition of service. The law denies others the opportunity to know and learn from their gay colleagues.
The history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is complicated. A comprehensive account of the policy, its genesis and application, would require volumes to tell. On this tenth anniversary, however, we review some of the defining moments of the past decade.
We review how the initial promise of a more benign policy toward gays actually created mass confusion about the policy and backlash against lesbian, gay and bisexual service members.
We review how, over time, the new law showed its true colors as a gay ban, just like its predecessors, not a step forward for our nation, our military or our military personnel.
We review the epidemic of anti-gay harassment in the ranks and the inadequate response of our military leaders. In particular, we review the brutal murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, exposing six years of harassment and violence against gay service members left unchecked by military leaders.
Lastly, we examine the significant shift in public opinion post September 11th in support of gays serving openly in the military. The American people and some military leaders are beginning to acknowledge that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was bad policy when it became law, and it is bad policy today. It is time for change.