Don't Ask Don't Tell

Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Strong opinions still rage over the role of gays in the military. As the premiere independent forum on naval matters, Proceedings magazine has published several insightful articles over the years that present a range of views on the subject. As the debate continues to develop over the future of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, this page compiles articles to provide a historic perspective.

Follow the DADT debate as it continues in the pages of the July Proceedings Magazine, and on our blog by clicking here

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Nobody Asked Me But...It's Time to Scrap Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Diversity is a strategic priority in the Navy. Sailors are to embrace "individual uniqueness, race, gender, ethnicity, cultural heritage, geographical background, religion, education, talent, skills, ideas, creativity and experience." The Navy rushed to trumpet that the Naval Academy class of 2013 is the most racially diverse in the school's history, but one minority group is conspicuously absent from the party: homosexuals.

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Abandoning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Will Decrease anti-Gay Violence

After exchanging gay insults, a British corporal guarding the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport shot one of his peers and then turned the gun on himself.

Many well-intentioned and fair-minded U.S. officers worry that if Congress eliminates the Pentagon's curent "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, episodes such as this will become the norm in the U.S. armed forces. A senior Navy lawyer told me that, although he is not personally opposed to lifting the ban, he worries that gays and lesbians would be subjected to harassment or worse. As one of the first to inspect the nearly-unrecognizable corpse of gay Seaman Allen Schindler after Schindler's brutal 1992 murder, this officer has a unique perspective on the potential for violence.

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The Credibility Crisis

Discussions about a widening "civilian-military gap" keep conjuring up fears of mutinous military leaders who disdain the culture and leadership of civilians. Much of the academic/literary chatter began with the widely read book Making the Corps. Author and military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks, an admirer of the Corps, worried in the final chapter about Marines who think their culture is superior to that of the civilian world.

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Privacy and Off-Duty

Time and again the armed services have been affirmed by federal courts in their authority over the continuum of duty. The military has a definite interest in off-duty conduct. The oaths of commission and enlistment do not refer only to certain times of day. It is as simple as that. While there are on-duty and off-duty periods, law, policy, and standards are not suspended during the off-duty period. The routine, benign disinterest exercised by the armed services in off-duty conduct ceases when conduct is either criminal or detrimental to good order and discipline. The latter can and has included inappropriate heterosexual behavior and fraternization misconduct, among many other activities. Certainly it includes homosexual behavior since sodomy is specifically prohibited under Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

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We Are Here to Stay

A riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969 began the modern gay rights movement. We are committed to seeing that movement advanced so that all Americans are granted their full civil rights, which includes allowing gays and lesbians to serve their country in the military-unimpeded by bigotry, hate, violence, and poor leadership. The world is crying out for change. Will the United States-a country founded by persecuted peoples-be among the 'last of the democratic nations in a new world order to grant all of its citizens their basic civil rights? Do we have enlightened civilian and military leaders who are up to the task?

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Book Reviews

Reviewed by Major Melissa Wells-Petry, U.S. Army

From the flat plains and grain elevators of Warren, Minnesota, to life behind the iron gates of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Honor Bound is Joe Steffan's story of his journey from high school track star to nuclear submarine enthusiast. It is also the story-at least in general terms-of Steffan's journey from sexual repression to acceptance of his homosexual orientation.

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The Politics

What irony. The President who declared in his victory speech that the 1992 election was all about bringing Americans together tossed a hand grenade his first week in office that blew people apart. That grenade was Clinton's declaration to make good on his campaign promise to strike the 50-year-old ban on avowed homosexuals in the armed forces.

It was a promise he made, not just once, but at least three times during the course of the campaign. Yet it never ignited the kind of furious debate that has flared since Clinton's inauguration.

Why not? For one thing, Clinton as candidate was not saying anything different than presidential contenders senators Robert Kerrey (D-NE) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). They, too, said that if elected they would issue an executive order striking the ban on gays in the military. And Kerrey had the advantage of being a Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam, which made him bulletproof from accusations that he didn't understand what he was proposing because be hadn't served, the rap often heaped on Clinton, whose sole experience was a brief flirtation with the ROTC.

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Why Not?

The new commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces recently stated that he intends to reverse a 50-year-old ban against gays serving in the military. This is a highly controversial issue: if there were not good arguments on both sides of the current debate, the decision would be an easy one.

In addressing this issue, we need first to consider that the ultimate job of a national military organization is to preserve peace at home and to protect interests abroad. Nothing about being homosexual prevents a person from accomplishing any military job or task on par with an equally trained and equipped heterosexual. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that does not, as some might believe, degrade physical or mental competence. Gays are simply human beings like you and me. Just as dedicated, just as patriotic.

The debate, therefore, is a sociological issue. Do we, as a nation, believe that allowing homosexuals in the military would be fundamentally disruptive to the armed services, and if so, is there sufficient reason to exclude gays from serving?

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A Proposal

On 2 December 1992 The Wall Street Journal ran an article on its feature page titled "Gays in the Military? A Cautionary Tale." On 18 December the Journal published two columns of readers' letters responding to the story.

As the author of the article, I saw nothing cautionary about the replies. The letters are angry. If there is a leavening in them, it is in the vindictiveness they reflect. The most bitter letters are from women. These are the ones that gave me pause, that addressed the problem of workplace sexuality with the response "Now you know what it's like to suffer the way we do," and I find myself in agreement with them.

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Listen to the Troops

President Clinton makes much of listening to all. He has recently done so in addressing the homosexual issue for the military. The advice received from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and other senior officers should be of significance, but if he really wants to know the impact his contemplated actions will have, President Clinton should consult with at least three other groups.

First and foremost, he should listen to the young men and women presently serving their country in the enlisted ranks. This group should include the noncommissioned leaders, the petty officers who will bear much of the brunt of any change in policy as they become deeply involved in the implementation process. These are the individuals who will be affected the most, not the senior officers.

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Just Stay Cool

Good leaders recognize opportunities where others see only problems. The upheaval caused by the invasion of gay rights over the once unassailable gunwales of naval tradition provides an opportunity to demonstrate rational leadership at a revolutionary point in naval history.

Already we've heard hysterical, hyperbolic predictions of massive defections by those who loathe the immorality of homosexuality; of gays lusting for their heterosexual shipmates; and of impulsive acts of violence against crew members who have come out of the closet. This type of rancor tends to feed on itself and can quickly get out of hand. Come, let us reason together.

However specious the new administration's justification for lifting the military's ban against homosexuals, this action will trigger problems requiring herculean efforts if a devastating effect on military readiness is to be avoided. Yet a commonsense examination of the facts, divorced from emotion, reveals more soup than substance.



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