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The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, commonly referred to as DADT, is a ban on the lesbians, gays and bisexuals serving in the military. This is the only law that allows the direct firing of an American from a workplace for being gay. It is the only law that punishes an individual who is either a lesbian, gay or bisexual for coming out and openly stating their relationship status. Many of the American citizens view this policy as being the gentleman’s agreement in a bid to resolve conflict, with the key to their job security being discretion. However, this is not the case because in this case, making an honest statement about ones sexual orientation will actually get them fired. Since the 1940’s, homosexuals have been banned from the United States military. Existing officers found to be homosexuals were forced to resign. They were discriminated against and suffered at the hands of others. In 1993 President William J. Clinton introduced the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy as his answer to the problem. He believed it to be a huge step for gay rights. However, the policy had many unintended consequences. It is debated to this date and its importance is underlined by the fact the candidates for presidency in the 2008 general elections have both had to make their stance on this subject clear.
The Don’t Ask, Don’t tell policy has got a history dating back to the failed efforts of President Clinton’s administration’s to end the ban on gays from serving in the military. This ban on the gays and lesbians serving in the military had been spurred in part by the brutal 1992 murder of Seaman Allen Shindler (Johnson, 2010). This is when then candidate Clinton proposed ending the ban. He issued an Executive Order overriding the Department of Defense regulations. This was the regulation that barred gays from serving. This was however intervened by Congress the ban was made law. This theoretically prevented action by future Commanders in Chief. This law was nonetheless not the same to previous prohibitions on service in three respects. First, for the first time since 1993, the Congressional and the military leaders acknowledged that lesbians, gays and bisexuals also serve our nation. And they do so honorably. In addition to that, this policy also states sexual orientation is no longer a bar to military service. Last but not least, President Clinton, Congress and military leaders came to an agreement to stop intrusive questions about service members’ sexual orientation. They also agreed to stop the investigations by the military which were used to fish out suspected lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. Steps were to be taken to prevent anti-gay harassment. The lesbian, gay and bisexual service members were to be treated as any other member serving in the military when facing the criminal justice system. This was done so instead of criminally prosecuting them in different circumstances. These circumstances were not where they would prosecute heterosexual service members. Thus, they agreed to implement the law with consideration to the privacy and associations of service members. The law became known in 1993 as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue”. This was to signify the new limits to investigations. It was also to show the intent to respect service members’ privacy. To start the policy off, small steps were made to keep some of these promises. Questioning on one’s sexual orientation was put to a halt. As a result, criminal prosecutions have decreased and service members Legal Defense Network Survival Guide witch-hunts have declined.
“Don’t Ask” means that service members are not supposed to be asked about their sexual orientation by anyone serving in the military. Despite this ruling, previous experience has however shown that some commanders and investigators still ask service members questions regarding their sexual orientation. They do this despite them knowing the rules to the contrary. This comes as jeopardy to the service members as they know they are not required to reveal their sexual orientation if they are asked about it. Lesbian, gay and bisexual service members who answer and reveal their orientation are likely to be discharged, even if they were simply answering to their superiors.
Under “Don’t Tell,” the service members face discharge if they disclose their sexual orientation. This provision was intended to target public declarations of sexual orientation. Lawmakers had promised that members would not face any charges as long as they kept their orientation private. As the law has come to be implemented, however, the promise was not kept. This is contrary to what was promised in 1993, when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass” became law. If it is found out that one has confided their sexual orientation to anyone, even parents, a psychologist or chaplain, the service member will likely face discharge. One exception is security clearance interviews. Here, truthful statements regarding sexual orientation or activities are not meant to be used as a basis for discharge Legal defense Network, 2010).
“Don’t pursue” was intended protect the service members. It was to stop the witch hunts being conducted on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. The investigative limits that have been set put the least threshold to start an inquiry. They restrict the broadness of an inquiry even when one is started on proper basis. A service member may be put under investigations and even discharged if they make a clear point that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. This is also the same for engaging in physical contact with someone of the same sex for the purposes of sexual fulfillment, or attempt to marry someone of the same sex (Legal Defense Network, 2010).
This policy was intended for the better good but the adverse effects that have come along with it have drawn sharp criticism by a majority of the people over the past few years. Many people have been rooting for a ban to it because of the negative effects that it is having on the military members. It is also a matter of concern when it comes to human rights violation as it is deemed to be discriminatory. The gay rights advocates were also pushing for the lifting of this law as it unlawfully discriminated the gay members of the society from serving in the military openly (Flaherty, 2010). These groups were pushing for a review to be opened in the law for it to be banned. This law had got adverse effects on the soldiers, their families and the society in general. These effects were raising alarms on the intensity of even major issues that could cause harm to the United Sates. These effects were many and new ones kept on coming up on a daily basis. Among these negative effects of Don’t ask, Don’t tell are three which have increased misuse of the policy by military members, increased distress among homosexual members of the armed forces and increased friction between the military heads and the government.
One major negative effect of this Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was the increase in misuse by the members serving ion the military. There are a number of members serving in the military that had always wanted to escape and get out of the military training but had got no gateway. This policy provided that gateway. With regards to this policy, in accordance with military code, any individual who is discharged due their sexual orientation is to be given an honorable discharge. Taking advantage of this allowed for a huge number of military members to misuse the policy to escape military service. They would do so and still gain an honorable discharge. They began to fake homosexuality in order to excuse themselves from the challenges of military life. After the introduction of the policy, the number of discharges due to homosexuality increased dramatically. This was a huge blow to the military forces. These were officers that they had spent considerable amount of money and time on to train them and make them become good soldiers. Thus, it would all be money and time wasted. Many of these discharges even took place at the Basic Military Training level. This had an effect on the military force of the United States as it also led to a decrease in the number of officers (Sennot, 2010).
Another major negative effect of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy was increased distress among homosexual members of the military. The main reason why this policy was introduced in the first place was in the hope that harassment against homosexuals were going to come to an end. It was aimed to protect the privacy of the individuals who were serving in the military and were homosexuals. But it was never effective. Gay and lesbian members of the forces were still condemned to great discrimination by their colleagues and their superiors (Gates, 2007). They were mistreated and were subject to abuse by their peers, especially those who did not seem to be physically strong enough to defend themselves. It was still common for gay officers to be beaten and assaulted by groups of other officers. The introduction of the policy was based upon the assumptions that homosexual members of the armed forces would refrain from revealing their sexual orientation. This would have helped in protecting them from the abuse that was going on. However, the gays in the service considered it to be a restriction on them. They were forced to ensure that no evidence of their character is found. This cultivated a fear of what would happen in case they were found to be gay. It led to great amounts of emotional and mental distress among them. Each day that passed by seemed to be the last for them serving in the military because they feared that their actions may lead to them being suspected and thus penalized. As a result, they were mentally being tortured with this stress and a majority of them felt that they were being forced to live a life that was not their own. They were not being allowed to have their say about their sexuality and this was a violation of the human rights of freedom act (English, 2010).
The third and the most negative effect of the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy was increased friction between the military heads and the governmment. This policy did not get a mutual support from the top officials of the military and this caused a major stir in the whole idea. The policy was opposed by senior military officials from the very beginning (Wood, 2010). When President Clinton was campaigning for the oval office, he made a promise of tackling this issue once he got into the office as the head of state. When he took office he intended to fulfill his campaign promise of introducing an executive order to ban the military’s policy of excluding homosexuals. However, things did not go as smoothly as he had thought they would. Immediately he introduced the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy he met great resistance he had not expected. The senior officers at the Pentagon were against the introduction of such a policy outlining the effects that this would have and that it might eventually destabilize the military forces of the United States. Despite all arguments laid on the table, President Clinton pushed it through anyway. This created a major conflict between the Department of Defense and the President. The conflict created friction between the two very important bodies of the government and had a trickledown effect on their day to day work and the activities that were going on in the military camps. This was not productive as the relationship between them is very important because they work together on military issues. Thus, this conflict could have had a much bigger effect by creating mistrust and disagreements between them. When dealing with international issues and matters that are related to the issues of national security, there needs to be complete clarity and confidence between the two and in the absence of these conditions the consequences could be gigantic. This policy had been put in place so that the United States military could put its house in order and be a force to reckon with in the whole world. It was intended to remove the issues that were causing problems in the forces, and instead it ended up creating even major ones.
In an effort to deal with this issue, the Department of Defense started a review of this policy to address the issues that were being raised. The review Panel was being headed by Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's top lawyer. The Defense Department officials e-mailed surveys to nearly 400,000 service members. Gen. Ham stated that, although the laws had got authorities responsible for making them, the voice of the service members is still of great importance and relevance to making the laws in the forces (Carden, 2010). Significantly, the United States Navy has been in the frontline in helping resolve this issue. It has gone forth to implement the changes made by the DOD regarding this law. The Secretary of Defense revised the rules in this law and there were new regulations put in place. Among these changes was that, the level of the commander who was allowed to authorize the initiation of an investigation into a homosexual conduct was raised. Before this, any commanding officer was allowed to initiate investigations, but now he had to be an admiral or above in the Sailor’s chain of command (Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs, 2010). On June 2nd 2010, the Chief of Naval Operations administrator Gary Roughead also came forth to support these changes. He recorded a podcast where he spoke on this policy. In it, he expressed his encouragement to take part in the department of Defense review on this law. He said “Every Sailor needs to speak for themselves and military family members need to be heard too” (Malloy, 2010). Roughead stated the relevance of the contribution made by each sailor and even encouraged those who were afraid to do so openly to voice out anonymous opinions on www.defense.gov/dadt a website created solely for this purpose.
The three negative effects of the introduction of Don’t ask, don’t tell policy; misuse of the policy by military officers, great amount of mental and emotional distress on homosexual members of the armed forces, and friction created between the government and the Department of Defense clearly outline that this policy did not serve its intended purpose instead created new problems. Better ways could have been used to avoid the conflicts created by this policy. The officers who were looking for a quick and honorable way from the challenging day to day life of the armed forces used this policy as their pass to freedom. This could have been avoided by introducing stricter regulation of the policy that ensured discharged members of the forces are actually deserving of it and not merely faking it. The policy also led to huge amounts of stress for the homosexual officers of the United States military. They were continued to be bullied and mistreated by fellow officers. They were picked on and suffered immensely due to their sexual orientation, leaving deep lying psychological scars. But the most important result was the friction created between the white house and the pentagon. It led to turf wars and had a lasting effect on co-ordination between the two. Because of this, very important issues like international conflicts and national security were always under a big threat of being mishandled.