Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Is History

This weekend’s historic vote to repeal the military’s formal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is truly a significant gain in the fight for LGBT equality.  DADT has not only legally discriminated against LGBT members of the military, but it has created a culture within the branches of the military that will take longer to change than will the change of the law.  Organizational culture is shaped by the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of its leaders and members.  Laws and policies can demand certain behaviors and conduct and provide punishments and sanctions for those who break the law, but no law or policy can change minds and hearts or organizational culture.  Only leadership, personal courage, and time can do that.

A history of U.S. policy on gays in the military from the San Francisco Chronicle.

1950: Rules for discharging homosexual service members are established in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which was signed by President Harry Truman.
President Ronald Reagan, in a defense directive, says “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” Under the declaration, service members who said they were gay or engaged in homosexual acts were discharged.
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton promises to lift the ban.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is inserted into a bill requiring the military to follow Reagan’s directive. President Bill Clinton, in a defense directive, declares that applicants for the military should not be asked about their sexual orientation.
Former President Clinton calls for an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The Supreme Court, ruling that college campuses cannot restrict military recruiters based on anti-discrimination policies, effectively upholds the ban.
Barack Obama, during his campaign for president, calls for a repeal of the law.
The House passes legislation to end the ban, after a Pentagon study on the repeal concludes that gay troops have little impact on military readiness. The Senate approved a repeal bill on Saturday and President Obama signed it Wednesday.

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