July 19, 1993 -President Bill Clinton Unveils “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy:
Let me say a few words now about this policy. It is not a perfect solution. It is not identical with some of my own goals. And it certainly will not please everyone, perhaps not anyone, and clearly not those who hold the most adamant opinions on either side of this issue.”
These are the words said by then President Bill Clinton on this day in 1993 as he unveiled a new policy on gays and lesbians in the military, which he called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.”
This new policy according to Clinton was as a “compromise “ therefore breaking his campaign promise to overturn the military’s ban. “Because [the military] is a conservative institution, it is right for the military to be wary of sudden changes…it is also right for the military to make changes when the time for change is at hand.” Clinton said.
Clinton’s original plan for repeal was fought by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), chair of the powerful U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. With the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress began the process of rushing through a federal law to reinforce the Pentagon’s then-existing policy of total exclusion. Clinton instead of fighting immediately worked on a compromise , and so on July 19, at a speech at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair Clinton unveiled DADT
I have ordered Secretary Aspin to issue a directive consisting of these essential elements: One, service men and women will be judged based on their conduct, not their sexual orientation. Two, therefore the practice, now 6 months old, of not asking about sexual orientation in the enlistment procedure will continue. Three, an open statement by a service member that he or she is a homosexual will create a rebuttable presumption that he or she intends to engage in prohibited conduct, but the service member will be given an opportunity to refute that presumption; in other words, to demonstrate that he or she intends to live by the rules of conduct that apply in the military service. And four, all provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice will be enforced in an even-handed manner as regards both heterosexuals and homosexuals. And thanks to the policy provisions agreed to by the Joint Chiefs, there will be a decent regard to the legitimate privacy and associational rights of all service members.
Sen. Nunn and other opponents of lifting the ban altogether accepted this so-called compromise, and it was attached to the Defense Appropriations Act of 1994 and passed later that year. But put to the test it was a major failure. Service members were discharged based solely on evidence of sexual orientation, recruits were asked about their sexual orientation as part of their enlistment procedure, and any hint that a service member was gay — even if that hint did not come from the service member himself — resulted in an immediate investigation with the goal of discharge from the armed forces. Over the next eighteen years that the policy remained in effect, 14,346 gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors and airmen/women were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until it was finally repealed by President Obama in 2011. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a total disaster.
“In retrospect, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was an astonishing act of political cowardice,” Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone magazine. “Telling gay men and women that they had to hide who they were in order to earn the privilege of getting shot at for our idiot military adventures was almost worse than open bigotry. It essentially institutionalized the closet.”
After DADT the Clinton Administration entered a phase of deep reluctance to tackle substantive gay-rights issues on the national stage. Although Clinton made a number of first-ever, high-profile appointments of gay leaders to his team, any kind of gay-rights policy agenda seemed stalled as a result of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
On September 21, 1996 President William Jefferson Clinton would blindside the LGBT community once again for his own political gain by signing the Defense of Marriage Act into law,
Helen Grace James grew up in Pennsylvania and enlisted in the Air Force in 1952, and had a fine service record. She was promoted to Airman 2nd Class.
But when she was stationed at Roslyn Air Force Base on Long Island, Airman James came under investigation by the Office of Special Investigation. One night in the winter of 1955,during The Lavender Scare she sat with a friend in her car to eat sandwiches when an officer shined a blinding light into her eyes and took her into custody. She was later interrogated for hours. Investigators told Helen Grace James that if she didn’t sign a statement they put in front of her, they would tell her family she was gay.
Helen Grace James signed. She was discharged as “undesirable.”
Now60 years later Helen Grace James has,received her honorable discharge this week after decades of fighting the government for recognition.
“I’m still trying to process it,” she told NBC. “It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge. The Air Force recognizes me as a full person in the military,” she said, having done “my job helping to take care of the country I love.”
91-year-old gay veteran Ed Spires of Norwalk, CT has filed suit to get his “undesirable discharge” status upgraded, and after spending three weeks in the hospital battling pneumonia, one of his last wishes is to be granted permission for a full military burial.
Out of shame, Spires kept quiet for 70 long years about why he was discharged from the Air Force and told of the inquisition he faced before superior officers when he was told to pack bags and go home because he was gay,”
Spires served in the Air Force from 1946 to 1948, but received an “undesirable discharge” when he was outed for being gay. After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in 2011, Spires requested a discharge upgrade. The Air Force responded by saying his paperwork stipulating why he was discharged was lost in a fire back in the 70’s.
Students from the Yale Law School Veterans Services Clinic took on his cause and filed a federal lawsuit against the Air Force Friday morning. They are seeking to get his discharge upgraded to “honorable.”
Originally called “Blue discharges” armed service members holding a blue discharge were subjected to discrimination in civilian life. They were denied the benefits of the G.I. Bill by the Veterans Administration and had difficulty finding work because employers were aware of the negative connotations of a blue discharge. Following intense criticism in the press and in Congress, the blue discharge was discontinued in 1947, replaced by two new classifications: general and undesirable but both still carried the same stigma
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), is the ranking member of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and said 100,000 vets received similar discharges for sexual orientation. Only about 500 of those have filed to have it upgraded. Blumenthal praised Spires for his efforts.
“He is the voice and face of an effort to seek justice for tens-of-thousands of other vets,” Blumenthal said.
“We hope that in doing so the U.S. Military may send a message to other gay vets that their service is appreciated and recognized under the law,” Rosenberg said.
Connecticut District Court Judge Victor Bolden has been assigned the case. Bolden once served as Corp. Counsel for the City of New Haven.
Russia and Egypt: An Interesting Sense of Outrage
Charles Karel Bouley
“The United States criticizing Russia over gay rights is like Rwanda criticizing the Darfur over genocide… “
Yes, that is what I said when asked by a listener about President Obama’s condemnation of Russia over their stringent anti-GLBT laws.
“And spare me your concern for Egypt; our Revolution took eight years and cost many thousands of lives, they’ve only been at this two years. AND, in Iraq, each day, 25-50 die with almost 1,000 civilians dead in July and who was screaming about that? We did that! That is OUR fault!”
Yes, I finished with that. Because it’s how I felt at the time.
I know what’s going on in Russia is horrific. But what’s going on in Mississippi or Alabama or any one of 29 states where a person can still be fired for being gay, even if it’s just alleged is also horrible. And it’s horrible that GLBT youth can not hear a positive message about being gay in Russia, but there are school districts and states trying to do the same here. Yes, Conversion Rape (raping a “suspected” lesbian to convert her and not being punished for it) is horrific and has been reported in Russia. But sending someone away to Gay Rehab (conversion therapy), forcing thoughts and images upon them, making them betray their very soul, well, that’s a form of violation as well and can scar people for just as long and it’s practiced in almost every state in the U.S.
Yes, a Russian newscaster saying gay hearts should be burned or buried if the organs are donated after a death is just wrong, but so is the FDA and American Red Cross refusing blood donations from gay men when blood has been tested for HIV and Hepatitis for decades now that’s also appalling. Russian gay youth being attacked by skin heads and the perpetrators going unpunished is horrific, but GLBT youth are attacked by religious ideology in the U.S. daily and end up killing themselves in record numbers as well, dying without any repercussion to those that led them to it.
And let’s not forget that in 37 states the battle for marriage equality still rages where GLBT Americans have to beg legislators, or even worse, voters, to approve their love and unions and grant them equal protection under the law. Disgusting. England has gay marriage, Uruguay for the love of all things holy, but the fight rages here? ENDA is not the law of the land. And it’s only been in the last five years that DOMA or DADT have disappeared; two flawed and horrific breaches of law and Constitution that were the law of the land for years without much uproar.
The fact is this country is nowhere near where it needs to be for GLBT equality, safety and harmony in society. Yes, we are moving forward. But we are still very, very backwards.
Snowden pissed off President Obama, and Putin flipped him off by granting him asylum. So, the president tries to embarrass Putin on GLBT rights, having rainbow flags thrown in his face in countries he visited after the uproar. Celebrities called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics.
And now, a few weeks out, there’s a new scandal, Egypt has erupted, Glenn Greenwald’s partner has been harassed (who knew an openly gay man broke one of the biggest stories in the recent past!) and the athletes are preparing for Sochi. Mark Leno from Calif. (D-Senator 11th District) called for Calif. to stop investing pension funds in Russia in protest. I can’t find one story on the progress of that or if that has died.
And Russian GLBT youth are still suffering and dying, and while their American counterparts do have it better in many areas, it’s no picnic here either. It’s a daily battle outside of the Calif. or New York bubbles for gay men and women in America; a battle to stay employed, a battle to be in love and be recognized, a battle not to throw it all in as a youth because of institutionalized bigotry, and we may have a name for them now, but hate crimes still happen just like skin heads attacking Russians.
No, President Obama, when it comes to the GLBT community in America you have been better than any recent president in tone, but not in substance. DOMA was bad law. It wasunconstitutional. It had to be undone and I’m glad it was, but you don’t get credit for repealing something that should have never been enacted (shame on you Bill Clinton). As for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, when the Army needed bodies during the Civil War, they let in blacks. Why? Equality? No, they needed bodies. Our military at the time was waging war on two fronts with exhausted soldiers. It needed (needs) bodies. It also makes those people pledge valor, honor, dignity, pride, allegiance to Country so it is incongruous that it would also ask them to cover up or lie about who they are so again, glad it’s gone, but it benefitted the country more than the gays in general.
No, President Obama, you want street cred over here to criticize others? Make Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) the law of the land by making it a legislative priority and make it illegal in every state to fire a GLBT person for simply earning a living. Have a congressperson introduce legislation to simply grant marriage equality, period, all 50 states and let’s get this bigotry out in the open on the Senate or House floor. Stop doing half-measures and get the job done.
And as for Egypt, well, look at the Iraq Body Count. Just this past Monday, August 19, 14 people died. Seven in bomb attacks in Mosul, three by IEDs in Tuz, one by gunfire in Basra, one in Kirkuk, another IED death in Baquba with an AED death in Mahaweel. So far, in August, 495 civilians have been killed in Iraq violence. And we did that. We broke that country apart and now it is the Humpty Dumpty of the Middle East; nothing is going to put it back together again.
We spent trillions all told, and for what? We illegally occupied the country, deposed the dictator that was keeping the peace (and no, he was NOT a nice man), invaded, forced something on them they didn’t really want to buy, and then left. Now, the Chinese buy up to 60 percent of the oil from the country and we have $4/gallon gas, thousands of Americans with PTST, lost limbs or lost lives and up to 125,000 dead civilians.
Move in to Afghanistan and Pakistan and just talk drones and we’ve killed over 3,000 from the sky, and the CIA has said up to 25 percent of those people are unknown to us, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That means we’ve killed 750 civilians with drones (a conservative estimate), including over 100 children.
But we are going to condemn the revolutionary process of Egypt and be outraged at the violence?
In 2012, 131 people were murdered in Oakland, Calif. There’s been 58 murders to date in 2013. Over 21,000 people have died in the U.S. from gun violence since the Newtown tragedy and estimates say gun deaths will surpass auto deaths in the U.S. this year, and we can’t even get sensible legislation passed, let alone be outraged enough to actually do something about it.
The fact is, the Russian gay issue was made an issue because of mounting tensions with Russia, including Snowden, and Egypt is an issue because we support their military, they are the gateway to the Middle East and support Israel in so much as they don’t attack them. We need Egypt to keep relations in the Middle East which we need for, say it with me, oil. The only reason anyone cares about a “Stan” country or the MIddle East is oil. Wait, and Israel. And we should care about both, but again, the outrage over this particular situation in Egypt… really?
There’s a lot be be angry about across the world. But there’s also a lot to be angry about right here. A lot. And we can’t keep acting like sectarian violence isn’t happening in the streets of America. Religious right, Muslim Brotherhood, what’s the difference? Republicans refusing to legislate, a country in decline, a nation that excels at two things, incarcerating and killing prisoners but fails at everything else from education to equality, well…
In the 24-hour news cycle there’s room for us to be involved, and care about, many issues: including Egypt and Russia. But let’s be sure we know why we are involved, why we care. And then let’s make sure that as we throw stones, our house is not made of glass. Because Moscow or Mississippi anti-gay sentiment, laws and oppression are everywhere and hurts just as much to the person experiencing it regardless of geography. And make no mistake,the GLBT community still bears the brunt of hatred and hate crimes in America today. And the argument that, “well, you have it better here than there,” doesn’t make what’s going on here right. It’s a false equivalent.
And as for Egypt, what’s going on is horrific, from killing of journalists, rapes going on in the crowds going unreported, people dying for a simple political affiliation, revolution is indeed messy. Like France supported us, we must support the spirit of freedom and independence that burns in Egypt and throughout the world, but we must never forget that we can’t share freedom or independence if all Americans are not secure in their own.
And let’s not forget the horrors of Iraq. Let’s not forget the terrors that still exist in Afghanistan, the death, the violence. It’s a legacy we created and we seem to have left the Iraqis to die without so much as a blip on our nightly news.
Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel – a contender to replace Defense Secretary Leo Panetta in the second-term Obama cabinet – has apologized categorically for his previous comments about gays in the diplomatic service.
Hagel had questioned the suitability of James Hormel, later named by President Clinton as Ambassador to Luxembourg, as an American envoy, describing Hormel as “aggressively gay.” Hagel was also a supporter of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
LGBT groups demanded that Hagel renounce his previous remarks. Hagel did just that, announcing in a statement that his 1998 comments “do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize.” Hagel further affirmed his support for gays and lesbians serving openly in the military and for LGBT “military families.”
It would seem that Hagel’s views have indeed evolved over time, much like those of the Obama administration that he seeks to serve. Steve Clemons, an openly gay editor at The Atlanic, wrote about his personal experiences with Hagel, calling the former senator a “staunch supporter” of gay rights: “At some point, Hagel may have been a supporter of don’t ask, don’t tell, but as of a couple of years ago he was not.”
While he has likely reassured liberals who feared backtracking on LGBT issues under his tenure, Hagel would still face intense scrutiny from senators based on other past comments, including a reference to the influence of the “Jewish lobby” that supports Israel. Hagel has also aroused the ire of his former GOP colleagues by backing Democratic senatorial candidates Joe Sestak and Bob Kerrey.
Hagel, 66, served two terms in the Senate before retiring in 2009. Since then he has been a professor at Georgetown University and co-chair of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
In celebration of International Coming Out Day, I wanted to talk about the transition of coming out. The things we do, whether consciously or subconsciously before we fully own our sexuality. And the one thing in particular that is done by most gay men is playing “The Pronoun Game”. You’ve done it before even if you aren’t too familiar with the term. It’s when you use them/their/they instead of placing a gender like he/she/his/her during a conversation.
For instance, say you aren’t completely out yet, you’re gay, and someone asks you what kind of woman are you attracted to and your response is along the lines“THEY have to have a wonderful personality, humor, and spontaneity “ . They go on to ask you to be more specific and a bit more lowbrow because now someone wants to know what about her looks (this is where it gets tricky) and you have to make a statement like “as long as THEY have a nice firm ass, big chest, and great arms then that would be great”. See how it’s interchangeable? I recall that I’ve did this A LOT before coming out (both times…it’s a long story).
For example, I was once in a dating show auction for charity in undergrad and the format was that you were asked 20 questions, of any variety related to the opposite sex before the ladies placed their bids. I had to dodge questions left and right like “what do you do to please a woman” or “what’s your favorite parts on a woman”. I was so embarrassed at the time. Now that I think about it, the questions were way too inappropriate for undergrad, but we were all adults so I digress.
Anyway, I was completely overwhelmed. Oh and the end of the 30 questions and by far the best one of the night was when I was asked “what does a woman do to you that pleases you?” And I almost blurted out Help Find ME A MAN but I stuttered and and said find…the key to my heart ( I know, really mushy). So during the time, I did it to keep up appearances as the guy I was dating that frequently visited our dorm wasn’t out yet. And I wasn’t fully comfortable yet, even though my closest friends knew, so to make it easier on both of us I excelled at using pronouns to mask my sexuality.
So we do it for a number of reasons, because the concept of The Pronoun Game, in and of itself, is a defense mechanism. It’s purpose is to protect us for various reasons. It’s there because we’re not comfortable yet letting other people know. Or we haven’t told everyone and the person asking you questions is that busybody in your group of friends that can’t keep a secret ever. We also do it because we want to be authentic to an extent while not having to lie about our sexuality. But sometimes it’s more than that. It could be because of fear, like your parents/loved ones disowning you or you just haven’t come out and dealt with the varying emotions of being gay. and it is okay. We come out on our time
A couple of years ago a retired second lieutenant of the US Army told his story about how before DADT (Don’t Ask, Don”t Tell) was removed from military regulation that he used the Pronoun Game so that he could keep his job:
At work, I continued to keep my secret. I played what I called the ‘pronoun game’, substituting the pronoun ‘he’ with ‘she’ whenever I discussed my relationship. I found excuses to avoid situations that would require me to be in a setting with military couples. The military prides itself on its commitment to its families. Ironically, I could not include my family because it could have ended our careers.
Whether it’s fear or confusion, and you’re are currently playing The Pronoun Game because you have yet to come out, know that first and foremost, you are not alone. That though your individual experiences are unique, that collectively the LGBT community understand the process and the gambit of emotions that you face everyday. Coming Out Day is not to force you out, but to show that you have support waiting for you when YOU decide to come out. And when you’re ready, we’re here waiting for you so that you know that you are accepted and that you are loved.
Lt. Josh Seefried of the U.S. Air Force and the founder of Outserve who revealed identity for the first time today, and Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach (ret.), U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, talk with Rachel Maddow about the significance of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
I don’t know how many of you have been subscribed to AreYouSurprised‘s YouTube channel, but we now get a face to go along with the wonderful video. This is a such and incredible and touching video. The nervousness he shows is real, and all of us who’ve had to come out to our families know exactly what he’s going through. His father’s reaction to “Dad, I’m gay. I’ve known forever” was “I still love you.”
Today marks the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.
For over 236 years, the U.S. Army has been an extraordinary force for good in the world. Our Soldiers are the most agile, adaptable and capable warriors in history — and we are ready for this change…
Accordingly, we expect all personnel to follow our Values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance. It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect, while maintaining good order and discipline throughout our ranks. Doing so, will help the U.S. Army remain the Strength of the Nation.