“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Ends After 18 Years

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Soldiers march in San Diego’s Gay Pride Parade, July 2011
Source: Gregory Bull, Associated Press (accessed Sep. 20, 2011)

The US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law banning gays in the military expired today, nine months after President Barack Obama signed a repeal of the law.

President Bill Clinton introduced ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ at a Jan. 29, 1993 press conference as a compromise measure between conservatives who wanted to ban all gays in the military and liberals who wanted gays to be allowed to serve openly.

DADT stipulated that the military would not ask about sexual orientation and service members would not divulge it. Between 1993 and 2011, more than 13,000 members of the armed services were discharged because of their sexual orientation.

A letter sent to Army personnel from Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno stated, “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 The law is repealed.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.”

During the 2008 presidential election, candidate opinions on DADT were largely divided among party lines. Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards favored allowing openly gay people to serve in the US military, while Republicans John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Huckabee were opposed.

In a statement released on Sep. 20, 2011, President Obama said, “I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans.”


Greg Sargent, “It’s Official: ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Is History, www.washingtonpost.com, Sep. 19, 2011

The White House, “Statement by the President on the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” www.whitehouse.gov, Sep. 20, 2011