The history of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

The military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy is back in place for the time being, with one major caveat: the government is not allowed to investigate, penalize or discharge anyone who is openly gay.

A San Francisco federal appeals court ordered the military to temporarily continue the controversial policy in an order late Friday, the court’s response to a request from the Obama administration.

The order is the latest twist in the legal limbo gay service members have found themselves in as the policy is fought in the courts simultaneous to its slow dismantling by the federal government, which expects to do away with it by later this year.

1950: The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is passed by Congress and signed by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, set up the parameters for discharging homosexual service members.

1982: A defense directive from U.S. President Ronald Reagan stated, “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” and that people who are openly homosexual or are caught in homosexual acts should be discharged from service.

1992: While campaigning for the presidency, Bill Clinton promised to lift the ban.

1993: When Clinton won the presidency, Congress rushed to make the existing ban on homosexuality in the military a federal law. Clinton tried to overturn the ban, but faced push-back from the Joints Chief of Staff, Congress, and members of the public. As a compromise, the Clinton administration introduced “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). Later in 1993, Congress inserted text into the bill that required the military to abide by the 1982 absolute ban. Clinton then issued a defense directive that stated military applications should not be asked their sexual orientation.

2006: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld DADT by ruling unanimously that the federal government was able to withhold funding from universities that violate nondiscriminatory policies in military recruiting.

2008: Barack Obama campaigns for the presidency, promising a full repeal of DADT, which would allow gay men and women to serve openly in the U.S. military.

January 2010: In President Obama’s first State of the Union address, he says that he will work with Congress and the military toward a full repeal of DADT. His statements are then followed up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who supports the full repeal.

July 2010: A trial opened in California arguing the enforcement of DADT. Lawyers representing Log Cabin Republicans – the nation’s largest Republican gay organization – argue that DADT is unconstitutional, and violates the rights of gay men and women in the military.

September 2010: Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled in the Log Cabin Republicans case that DADT is unconstitutional.

October 2010: Judge Phillips issued an injunction prohibiting the U.S. Department of Defense from enforcing or complying with DADT.

Military officials are told they can accept openly gay applicants.

A federal court of appeals granted a temporary stay, which reversed Judge Phillips worldwide injunction.

November 2010: A court of appeals stayed Judge Phillips injunction, pending appeal. Plaintiffs in the case ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but it does not.

The Pentagon published a report on the repeal of DADT. The report stated that there was low risk of military service disruptions if the ban were repealed.

December 9, 2010: Senate Republications filibustered a vote repealing DADT.

December 15, 2010: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal DADT.

December 18, 2010: The U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the DADT law.

December 22, 2010: The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 is passed into law by President Obama. However, the repeal does not immediately stop DADT. Before the military can implement the new law, Obama, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen must certify that the DADT repeal will not harm military readiness. Once readiness is certified there will be a 60-day waiting period before the military must implement the new law.

July 6, 2011: A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. government to immediately stop enforcing the ban on openly gay military personnel. The court stated that following Congress’s repeal of DADT, and the Pentagon’s wiliness to accept openly gay personnel, there was no reason to uphold a stay that had been placed on a court ruling which overturned DADT.

July 15, 2011: DADT is back in place for the time being, with one major caveat: the government is not allowed to investigate, penalize or discharge anyone who is openly gay. A federal appeals court ruled late Friday that the military should temporarily continue with DADT, in light of previously undisclosed facts provided by the U.S. government.

With files from The Associated Press


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