Pentagon may ease ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ Could reduce expulsions of gay service members; Some in Congress want to keep existing rules

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    Feb 02, 2010 9:53 AM GMT
    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/02/02/pentagon_may_ease_dont_ask_dont_tell_rules/

    Pentagon may ease ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
    Could reduce expulsions of gay service members; Some in Congress want to keep existing rules

    WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials are expected to announce today that they will significantly relax enforcement of the ban on gays serving openly in the military, according to sources inside and outside the military who have been briefed on the plan.

    The move, independent of Congress, comes a week after President Obama called on lawmakers to repeal the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ law.

    Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to announce at least two specific policy shifts: No longer will a “third party,’’ such as a spouse or informant outside the military, be able to prompt investigations of service members by saying they are gay; and only generals and admirals will be authorized to decide whether someone should be discharged for being gay. Such decisions are now often made lower in the chain of command.

    By barring third-party testimony from initiating investigations of service members’ sexual orientation, the Pentagon could cut down on the “witch hunts’’ that gay rights advocates say have resulted in the ouster of soldiers who have followed the policy by keeping their private lives private.

    Meanwhile, requiring more-senior officers to review proposed discharges would probably mean that fewer discharge cases - only those in which soldiers have flagrantly violated the policy - would be brought forward, according to specialists.

    While expected to generate criticism in Congress and among conservative groups, the revisions could accelerate an evolving change in attitudes at the Pentagon.

    Already, the number of gays and lesbians expelled from the military is dropping; last year’s total was the lowest on record, plunging by a third, and specialists said the new policies will drive those rates even lower.

    “The executive action taken . . . could be seismic,’’ said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that has long advocated for repeal of the gay ban. “Don’t ask, don’t tell has rested on the belief that the presence of openly gay service members is always bad for the military.’’

    The new approach, he added, “would mean a shift in the military’s focus toward keeping gay troops, reflecting the military’s belief that they are as essential as their heterosexual peers.’’

    The latest figures on discharges, obtained by the Globe yesterday, show that in fiscal year 2009, 428 service members were kicked out of the military under the terms of the 1993 so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ law, which requires gay military members to keep their sexual orientation secret or risk expulsion.

    The number of discharges last year was the lowest since the Pentagon began tabulating the annual data in 1996. The peak number of expulsions was 1,227 in 2001.Continued...

    Some believe the lower discharge figures demonstrate a shift in philosophy among many commanding officers, who may now consider soldiers’ sexual orientation irrelevant, as long as they do their jobs.

    “I think there is a pragmatic approach out in the field,’’ said Rudy deLeon, who served as undersecretary of defense for personnel in the Clinton administration. “The key element is whether this man or woman is doing the job and supporting me, rather than are they gay.’’

    He likened the broader acceptance of gays in the ranks to the integration of blacks by presidential order in 1948. Initial resistance from some white officers melted away several years later during the Korean War, he said, when it became clear that blacks already serving in the military were more prepared to fight than fresh recruits.

    “The second issue,’’ deLeon added, “is there is a generational divide. For younger persons, this is not as much of an issue.’’

    Still, any moves to limit gay discharges or repeal the law are certain to spark a vigorous fight with opponents of allowing gays to serve openly, including influential members of Congress in both parties who have said in recent days that they oppose Obama’s calls for repealing the ban because they think it could harm military discipline in the midst of two wars.

    Senator John McCain, a Republican of Arizona and senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has expressed opposition to changing the current policy and is expected to raise those concerns when Gates and Mullen appear before the committee today - the first testimony on the policy by high-ranking Pentagon officials in 17 years. McCain’s office did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

    Meanwhile, Representative Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, which also has jurisdiction over the issue, has likewise said he is not prepared to back a repeal.

    The “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ law was passed as a compromise after President Bill Clinton’s proposal to lift the ban on gays in the military in early 1993 backfired. Top officers and members of Congress resisted and polls showed a majority of Americans did not support the move.

    Since then a growing number of military officers have said they believe that the policy, meant to preserve good order and discipline, actually undercut the military code of honor by forcing people to lie.

    A number of conservative groups, however, are stepping up their efforts to fight a repeal, arguing that openly gay service members would undercut the warrior creed.

    Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council and a retired Marine Corps officer, said “the timing of the president’s call in the midst of two wars shows that he is willing to jeopardize our nation’s security to advance the agenda of the radical homosexual lobby.’’

    The policy changes to be announced today are considered a first step in what Gates has called creating a more humane treatment for gay service members.

    It comes as the Obama administration lobbies Congress to overturn the law, which has led to the discharge of an estimated 13,000 troops over the past 16 years.

    Today’s expected announcement would not be the first time the Pentagon has taken steps to limit the discharge of gays. For example, prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon temporarily halted the gay discharge process, according to a forthcoming study published by the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

    “Scholarly evidence shows that the ban on service by openly gay personnel is unlikely to impair military effectiveness or harm recruiting, retention, or unit cohesion,’’ according to the report. “Yet questions remain as to how best to execute and manage the transition from exclusion to inclusion of openly gay personnel in a way that takes into consideration the concerns and sensitivities of the military community.’’

    DeLeon, for one, believes that the concerns are manageable.

    “If we can manage the wedge politics, I think this problem is resolvable so that Americans who want to serve can serve, so that the readiness of the armed forces is protected and enhanced.’’
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 02, 2010 10:02 AM GMT
    The Pentagon is quick to act on this before Obama's promised repeal can take root. It will be interesting to see how Obama and Congress address this one.
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    Feb 02, 2010 1:16 PM GMT
    It's time for gay service men and women to take matters into their own hands. This will be resolved in no other way. Gay service men and women do not have a friend in Obama, in the Congress, the Senate or the Pentagram. I'd love to see a national coming out day centered around the military. Show these dumbfucks just how prevelant gays in the military are.

    That won't happen though. Too many excuses.
  • DCEric

    Posts: 3713

    Feb 02, 2010 2:29 PM GMT
    McGay saidIt's time for gay service men and women to take matters into their own hands. This will be resolved in no other way. Gay service men and women do not have a friend in Obama, in the Congress, the Senate or the Pentagram. I'd love to see a national coming out day centered around the military. Show these dumbfucks just how prevelant gays in the military are.

    That won't happen though. Too many excuses.


    Yeah, like how are they all going to put dinner on the table after they are discharged. That would be a really lame excuse.
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    Feb 02, 2010 3:56 PM GMT

    I can appreciate McGay's thinking, but it asks too much of men and women who already make huge sacrifice, both by being in the military and by having to put up with the stress of the US armed force's institutional homophobia. Some kind of group coming out or day of protest would present a number of problems not least of which would be that, in the interest of maintaining good order and discipline, their commanding officers would be obliged to enforce the rules as they no exist, which would end the protestors' military careers and cut off their entitlement to post-discharge benefits. There is also the question of whether people want to come out at work. The problem right now is that people can't be out if they want to. Nothing says that once coming our is o.k. everybody has to do it.

    Right now DADT is emblematic of the inability of the near paralysis of US's legislative machinery. The President is correct in using his executive power to the extent that he can. But in order to allow people of all sexual orientations to serve under the same conditions, laws need to be changed. And there are enough powerful (virtually all, if not all) Republican congressmen and senators who oppose allowing non-heterosexuals to serve openly to kill any attempts to change those laws.

    The reasons for those peoples' opposition are varied, but one strand I find particularly disturbing are those who believe that 1) God hates fags; and 2) God is still in the business of bestowing his favor or wrath on individual nations. This variety of right wing nut sees allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military as a matter of national security because they believe our national security rests on America being the new Israel. This line of thinking is frighteningly prevalent in wide swathes of the American right.
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    Feb 02, 2010 4:07 PM GMT
    DCEric said
    McGay saidIt's time for gay service men and women to take matters into their own hands. This will be resolved in no other way. Gay service men and women do not have a friend in Obama, in the Congress, the Senate or the Pentagram. I'd love to see a national coming out day centered around the military. Show these dumbfucks just how prevelant gays in the military are.

    That won't happen though. Too many excuses.


    Yeah, like how are they all going to put dinner on the table after they are discharged. That would be a really lame excuse.


    There are risks to all actions. I am certain that if every man and woman in the military who is gay, came forward and violated DADT, the authorities would have little choice but to act swiftly to change the policy and engage enforcement tactics as quickly as they responded to 9/11. I'm not sure who wants DADT repealed more, gay military personnel or civilians. If it was determined that gay military personnel are happy enough with the policy as is, then, let it be, but, if they want it changed, they must act. It is not the president, the congress, the senate, the judiciary or the pentagon who are going to change this policy, ever. Oh, it will be studied and studied like no other subject before it, but it will not be changed.
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    Feb 02, 2010 4:23 PM GMT
    Come on USA! the UK is so more advanced that we even have the Pope telling us we are bad....
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Feb 02, 2010 4:29 PM GMT
    Glad to see there is open discussion about changing this pathetic policy.
    Will withhold views until after I see whats discussed and the outcome.

    Will there be changes that are useful and overdue... or is this just an excercise that won't have any real productive changes. We will see.
  • DCEric

    Posts: 3713

    Feb 02, 2010 4:31 PM GMT
    McGay saidThere are risks to all actions. I am certain that if every man and woman in the military who is gay, came forward and violated DADT, the authorities would have little choice but to act swiftly to change the policy and engage enforcement tactics as quickly as they responded to 9/11. I'm not sure who wants DADT repealed more, gay military personnel or civilians. If it was determined that gay military personnel are happy enough with the policy as is, then, let it be, but, if they want it changed, they must act. It is not the president, the congress, the senate, the judiciary or the pentagon who are going to change this policy, ever. Oh, it will be studied and studied like no other subject before it, but it will not be changed.


    1) If there is one thing that motivates people it's money, and while asking people to take risks isn't unusual, even in daily life, if you ask them to risk their paycheck, the answer will almost always be "no". Unless these people have a nice safety net, they are almost certainly not going to do anything to endanger dinner.

    2) It wouldn't be a violation of DADT, it would be in line. If you tell, you are out. A violation would be more along the lines of the changes that are described in the OP. Changing the policy from DADT to "Don't Ask, but Don't Yell."

    3) Um? Really? Are you that pessimistic? Have no rights (gay or otherwise) been advanced in your life time? Maybe because my work has me constantly looking at Africa and Asia, I see the world in a lens that shows the US as being progressive on civil rights (gay or otherwise), but still, I have seen a huge amount of progress from government. True, government is but small player in the advancement of a cause, and the civilian attitude plays a larger role. However, it is the current civilian attitude that has this being discussed and taken more seriously than ever. The government is always slow to move, but if you want it to move faster doing (or in your example, expecting) things to frustrate its functioning only complicates the situation and gains you little to no support from the public. A public that is already on our side for this argument.

    Civil disobedience works when the public is not on your side, after that it just looks like whining.