< Return to MilitaryGear.com

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Law

All Posts  February 22 2009
 — By CJ Grisham

The Army’s regulation on homosexual conduct in the military, AR 600-20, states

A person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter and is not a bar to
entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct

The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy isn’t actually the military’s policy. In fact, it’s the law. According to the Constitution of the United States (yeah, I know, what is that again?), it is the job of Congress to “raise and support Armies” and “provide and maintain a Navy”. With those responsibilities in mind, Congress passed and the President signed into law the military’s policy on homosexual conduct in 1993. The legislation amended Title 10, the section of law that governs military activities. I’ve discussed this already and flushed out a lot of my personal feelings before on this topic.

The law acknowledges the realities that the “presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

It admits that there is a fundamental difference between military life and civilian life. Success in combat requires military units that are characterized by high morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion. The main problem with integrating openly homosexual individuals into the military is that it directly affects each of those. According to the actual LAW, “The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.”

Basically, according to LAW, homosexuals are actually prohibited from serving in the military. So, it’s a bit odd that our regulations state that “a person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter and is not a bar to entry or continued service unless manifested by homosexual conduct.” This actually directly contradicts the law of the land.

In a recent Military Times Poll, 9% of those polled said they would NOT re-enlist or extend if the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was overturned. There are approximately 2.3 million members of the military, including all branches and Reserve forces. If 9% of that refuses to re-enlist or extend the military will lose over 203,000 troops to accommodate for a small group of openly homosexual individuals to serve. Another 14% would “consider” not re-enlisting or extending. Take away another 322,000 troops for a total possible loss of over a half million troops.

Can anyone tell me that we will make up those numbers with homosexual troops? To be honest, I’m not one of the 9% or the 14%. I have no problems with homosexuals personally. Congress explained it just as good as I could in the law that was passed in 1994:

`(1) Section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States commits exclusively to the Congress the powers to raise and support armies, provide and maintain a Navy, and make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

`(2) There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces.

`(3) Pursuant to the powers conferred by section 8 of article I of the Constitution of the United States, it lies within the discretion of the Congress to establish qualifications for and conditions of service in the armed forces.

`(4) The primary purpose of the armed forces is to prepare for and to prevail in combat should the need arise.

`(5) The conduct of military operations requires members of the armed forces to make extraordinary sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, in order to provide for the common defense.

`(6) Success in combat requires military units that are characterized by high morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.

`(7) One of the most critical elements in combat capability is unit cohesion, that is, the bonds of trust among individual service members that make the combat effectiveness of a military unit greater than the sum of the combat effectiveness of the individual unit members.

`(8) Military life is fundamentally different from civilian life in that–

`(A) the extraordinary responsibilities of the armed forces, the unique conditions of military service, and the critical role of unit cohesion, require that the military community, while subject to civilian control, exist as a specialized society; and

`(B) the military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including numerous restrictions on personal behavior, that would not be acceptable in civilian society.

`(9) The standards of conduct for members of the armed forces regulate a member’s life for 24 hours each day beginning at the moment the member enters military status and not ending until that person is discharged or otherwise separated from the armed forces.

`(10) Those standards of conduct, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, apply to a member of the armed forces at all times that the member has a military status, whether the member is on base or off base, and whether the member is on duty or off duty.

`(11) The pervasive application of the standards of conduct is necessary because members of the armed forces must be ready at all times for worldwide deployment to a combat environment.

`(12) The worldwide deployment of United States military forces, the international responsibilities of the United States, and the potential for involvement of the armed forces in actual combat routinely make it necessary for members of the armed forces involuntarily to accept living conditions and working conditions that are often spartan, primitive, and characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy.

`(13) The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.

`(14) The armed forces must maintain personnel policies that exclude persons whose presence in the armed forces would create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

`(15) The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because the military gets a bad rap for following THE LAW (even though our regulations directly contradict the law by allowing them to serve in the closet). I will support any decision the military or Congress makes with respect to homosexual service, whether I agree with it or not. Of course, I wouldn’t have much longer to worry about it if the law were ever changed anyway. The main reason is that the LBGT community is lobbying like crazy to get the policy changed! So, I’m lobbying against it.

(34) Readers Comments

  1. Is a stupid law that needs to be changed.

    Are we all still teenagers? Because all of this sounds like we are… Laugh and giggle, and then scream “We’re not like them!” and then ban them from everything.

    Statistics vary, but anywhere from 10-12% of the population is gay, or identifies as such. I’m willing to bet if we got into something super bad, like on a WWII scale war, that law would go right out the window.

    • “Are we all still teenagers? Because all of this sounds like we are… Laugh and giggle, and then scream “We’re not like them!” No Bob, not in the least. I’ll have to have some of my gay friends on my radio show. I can’t think of a time I’ve ever “laughed or giggled” at them. I think some of these comments are getting a little adolescent though, like CF’s next comment.

      • As concerns the issue, I have to say this…

        At one time, it was believed that blacks didn’t have the intelligence to be tank crew.

        It took one man to end that.

        “Men, you’re the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don’t care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking forward to you. Don’t let them down and damn you, don’t let me down!” ~ General George S. Patton *

        *Wilson, Joe W. The 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion in World War II”. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999. p53.

  2. cj:

    While I appreciate you are not from Utah, you have much in common with what many still refer to as the Reddest of Red States: you despise gays, you despise all things liberal (even if good for the nation), you despise Obama, even though he has been in office but a few short weeks, and you cling to the fantasy that George Bush was good for the nation, notwithstanding the numerous failures of colossal magnitude occurring on his watch and under his control.

    Just like many Utahns, you appear to be turning way too bitter way before your time!

    • And you have a lot in common with Chavez, but I’m sure you’re not from Venezuela. I don’t despise gays and I’m interested in what you’ve read, heard, or seen that brings you to that ignorant conclusion.

      I don’t despise ALL things liberal, just how liberals expect the government to force them upon others. I’m actually a very social liberal in that I think people should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on others. The problem with true liberals is that they want to government to legislate their freedoms, where I want to government to simply protect them. I don’t need a law to tell other people not to do something I don’t agree with. Liberals want the law to make things illegal they don’t agree with in public. I don’t think the government should have any say in allowing gays to marry. It’s none of their business. They get offended when they should simply ignore.

      I don’t despise Obama. He’s my boss. I definitely don’t agree with him. But, I’m not going to defend my against someone who despises Bush. Your argument is hollow and hypocritical.

      George was good for the nation on some levels and destroyed us on others. But, again, you’re not someone I need to defend myself against because you’re an uber-liberal, BDS sufferer anyway. You WANT to hear how I think Bush failed while you fail to admit where he succeeded. I owe you nothing and your opinion is dirt to me.

      As for bitter, I love life. I’m only bitter towards people I can’t stand. Since you are one of those people, you perceive my bitterness is something that overtakes my life. You’ve obviously never met me nor read everything I’ve written here.

  3. To Bob & Critical Facts:
    I too like C.J. am not homophobic,
    but the military has enough problems today.
    Let’s face it , we’re fighting a war.
    Today’s military can’t approve of two men marrying. Let’s face it, AIDS has been a real problem among the gay community. C.J. is right. Bob & Critcal Facts: He tells the truth. Learn from him.
    Sincerely, Thomas Folan, Former Seaman, U.S.N.R.

    • Alright, you just crossed the line.


      I know it better than anyone here.

      I lost someone very dear to me to AIDS. You know how she got it? Her fiance. You know how he got it? A dirty needle he used 5 years before, and had gotten himself clean from.

      The largest group contracting AIDS is IV drug users. Has been that way for more than 10 years.

      So please take your bigoted and non factual comments somewhere else.

      • Tehnically, Bob, Thomas is right to a degree. A 2008 study reported that 55% of men with AIDS contracted the disease through male-to-male sexual contact. The remaining 45% is split between heterosexual relationship, blood transfusions, and infected needles (drug abuse). If you ask me, that constitutes a real problem for the gay community.

        I’ve lost a relative to the disease myself, so I know how defensive one can become. IV drug needles don’t actually rate as high (only 25% of cases). Only 18% of cases resulted from heterosexual contact. 2% of exposure was a result of blood transfusions, pregnancy, etc. All figures are from Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

        • I have a younger brother who is a gay activist and he is HIV positive. Nuff said on that. He has made it clear that they have an agenda and acceptance in the military is key to getting the rest of what they want, full and absolute acceptance of the LBGT life style in American culture. He told me if they get their way one day I will be standing in formation and a male Marine will be standing next to me wearing the uniform of a woman Marine, and I won’t be able to do a damn thing about it because he is preparing for his sex change (that will be covered under Tricare) and the regulations will have change to allow him to do so. Everyone good with THAT?

  4. Thomas says: “…the military has enough problems today. Let’s face it, we’re fighting a war.”

    Couldn’t agree more, which is why I support overturning DADT. When the military should be worrying about winning these wars we’re in, using the best personnel they can get, they must devote resources to trying and booting out otherwise good soldiers solely because they’re gay.

    And yet the military has lowered recruiting standards across the board to maintain troop levels: they’ve increase waivers for those who are overweight, for those w/o high school degrees, and those with criminal records to name a few.

    With regard to your AIDS straw man: HIV testing is required before entering the military, and every two years after that.

    • Elizabeth, is it worth overturning DADT when over 500,000 have said they WILL or MAY leave the service if it is? Are there 500,000 gays and lesbians willing to sign up to make up for that loss? If so, I’m all for it. For the record I’m not one of those 500,000.

      • Ha! And you believe each one of those 500,000 would actually leave? Hmmm …. There is a bridge in Manhattan for sale … Interested?

        • No, I don’t think all 500,000 would follow through with it. But, even if only half followed through on it, it’s a risk that we can’t afford.

  5. DADT is antiquated and obsolete. Most youngsters in today’s Marine Corps could give a rat’s ass less. Currently the push-back is from mid-level and senior SNCO’s that really need to just move on to another career.

    • Not sure when Corporals and Buck Sergeants became SNCO’s, but I guess you’d know better than I do. I only work with Marines on practically a daily basis.

    • Funny, had the discussion with my Marines today. Some were totally against lifting the ban and the others, well they did not care until the roomate issue came up and then it is the can serve but I’m not rooming with them. So JD how would you handle that? Don’t answer, I can tell that you must be a LCpl or NCO with no real leadership role in our Corps, because of your comment about SNCO’s. Don’t worry, we SNCO’s will have to bear the burden of all the leadership issues that will come up if DADT is lifted because weak Marines as yourself don’t pack the gear to handle it.

  6. CJ: similar reinlistment figures were presented when the military was considering allowing black soldiers to serve in integrated units. The argument went that white soldiers would not reinlist by the tens of thousands because they would not want to suffer the indignity of serving with black soldiers, or (horror of horrors!) being under the command of black soldiers.

    We know of course, this all came to pass. Post-integration service members proved mature enough to serve along those who were different from themselves(and who many believed were inferior). I suspect most of today’s military men and women would react with similar maturity and professionalism.

    • Elizabeth, just show me the figures and I’ll adjust accordingly. The difference between black and homosexual is HUGE. As CF would say, apples and oranges. If you’ll just show me the figures, I’ll be more open to this argument.

  7. Army historian Morris MacGregor documents these matters in his book “Integration of the Armed Forces (1940-1965)” The one nugget I can quickly pull was from a 1945 survey conducted by the Army, which found that 88% of white soldiers did not want to serve with black soldiers at the time.

    I’d encourage you to read the history yourself, but the arguments against integrated units were essentially the same as those in favor of gay exclusion. It was thought that blacks made sub-par soldiers, that whites would refuse to live with or take orders from blacks, and that unit cohesion and morale would colapse. In the words of Colonel Eugene Householder, integration of the troops would be a “danger to the efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.” Sound familiar?

    I did not bring this up to compare blacks to gays, or their respective struggles for equality. My point was to illustrate how these arguments you make today about unit cohesion and morale proved false in the past.

    Of course there are differences between blacks and gays. I think one of the biggest is that it is still socially acceptable to hold anti-gay views, while it is no longer socially acceptable to be a racist. It is because of this, that we see the same arguments that were used against blacks in the not so distant past, being used against gays today.

    • But see, here’s the difference. White people back in those days wanted them in a completely different unit. They didn’t mind them serving in the Army as long as they were in separate units. Hence, the Army created units like the Buffalo Soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen.

      Black proved themselves in these units and were integrated from there. Do you suggest we do everything the way we did the blacks and start with segregated gay units so it doesn’t affect morale and see it goes from there?

      Regardless, this is more than just cohesion and morale. We’re talking about men that are attracted to men (and women to women) being bunked with same gender Soldiers. We don’t allow men and women who are attracted to each other to share rooms, why would we allow it for gays? This is completely different argument. If we allow gays in, it’s only “morally” right that we completely remove segregation based on sex altogether.

      • Gays are already serving in integrated units, so I don’t think there’s a need to create segregated units. Gays are already bunking and showering with straight soldiers too. There are laws and codes in place to prevent and punish sexual harassment and abuse, and they should certainly continue (and perhaps even be upgraded after DADT, just to make insecure straights feel better).

        Bottom line: the military allowed segregated units because at the time, racism prevailed. The brass thought forcing racist whites to serve in units with blacks would hurt morale, so they maintained segregation. Today, whether justified or not, homophobia (discomfort or disapproval of homosexuality) prevails. You argue that US troops are overwhelmingly homophobic, and that as such, forcing these homophobic troops to serve with open homosexuals would hurt morale, reenlistment numbers, what have you. Just like past segregation, today’s ban on open gays has nothing to do with military readiness and everything to do with appeasing insecurity and prejudice.

        • Well, then there shouldn’t be any problem with bunking men and women together. I mean, after all, “there are laws and codes in place to prevent and punish sexual harassment and abuse” right? Let the desegregation of the sexes begin!!

  8. I know you don’t ask that question seriously, but I offer a response based on pragmatism nonetheless.

    1. Bunking the sexes separately seems to be working pretty well. There is no practical reason to change that policy. The same cannot be said about DADT. The military is wasting countless resources to train and then boot out otherwise able service members, just because they are gay. This is all while the military is scrambling to lower standards in terms of education, physical fitness, criminal background, and nationality, just to keep recruitment levels up. Whereas desegregating the sexes would be costly and pointless, allowing gays to serve openly in the units they are already serving in would be net cost positive, since it requires no restructuring of barracks, and cuts the expenses devoted to training, investigating, removing, and replacing gay soldiers.

    2. I think we can agree that sex in barracks is generally bad. Due to gender ratios, sex would be much more likely to occur in mixed-sex barracks, than in a single-sex barrack, if you figure the gay population in any given barrack would be 1-5%. Furthermore, sex between men and women has the added burden, in the military setting, of having the potential to make babies. Please don’t shoot back the AIDS argument–HIV testing is required upon entering the service, and every two years after. Not to mention, heterosexual women are now have the highest HIV infection rates in the US.

    3. Physical assault of women by men is a greater threat than physical assault of a straight man by a gay man. Criminal records back that up.

    • Actually, I DO ask that question seriously.

      1. The reason we bunk the sexes separately is because there is an attraction – generally – between them. Because of the DADT policy, the attraction between same sexes isn’t known. However, if they are allowed to serve openly, they should be allowed to bunk with the sex they are attracted to, as with the policy on heterosexuals.

      The fact is that the costs associated with separating gays into their own rooms and sexual categories the way heterosexuals are is going to be just as costly. If the military is going to allow same sex attraction to bunk together, shower together, and live together, it’s an equal opportunity issue that they allow the same rights and privileges to heterosexual individuals. If gay men and women can be expected to behave themselves in these situations, surely heterosexual men and women can be expected to behave themselves. Unless, of course, you’re saying that homosexuals are better people than heterosexuals. It’s a very simple and valid point.

      2. I could throw the whole black argument right back at you with this point. Due to racial ratios, whites are more likely to commit acts of racism than blacks. That doesn’t mean that blacks are incapable of racism and hatred, just that it wouldn’t happen in such large numbers because the ratio is smaller. How do you know what the gay population in the barracks would be? Isn’t there this huge mass of homosexuals who want to serve? The protests and parades would suggest so. Or, are you saying we should only allow our homosexual population to reach 1-5%? What if it reaches 50%, then what? 25%? 10%? The ratio of men to women is small too. I’ve never mentioned the AIDS argument and won’t here, although not every relationship in the military is between two military members. Soldiers aren’t necessarily kicked out of the military for being HIV-positive. Also, please show where you got your stats on heterosexual women.

      3. What about physical assault of a gay man by a straight man? Gay men beat each other up because straight men don’t slap.

  9. The suggestion that women and men be allowed to bunk together is not analogous to gay and straight troops bunking together:

    In our society there are numerous facilities that are divided by gender: dorms, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. In the civilian world – the “world” that military recruits come from before joining the military – gay and straight people share these facilities. There’s no division based on sexual orientation. These divisions are based on gender, not attraction.

    If you’ve belonged to a gym like Bally’s, 24Hour Fitness, or the YMCA, you’ve probably shared the lockerroom, showers, etc. with other members who are gay. If you attended a large public high school or college and used the showers, there’s a good chance you showered with someone who was gay. And if you’re in the military, even though you didn’t know it, you probably showered with someone who was gay.

    As far as racial segregation, most of society was still segregated even after the military was integrated. African-Americans still went to different schools in most communities, had separate churches, and even completely separate towns in some places. It was considered “natural” that they should be placed in separate units. That’s not true for the gay experience.

    None of us believe that being gay and being black are the same thing. And the respective historical experiences are not the same either. What is the same is the rationale used to support discrimination of both communities.

    • Pepe, where in your fictitious world do these people bathe together? Yes, I’ve probably shared facilities with them, but I can guarantee you I didn’t know it. If we’re going to supposedly abolish the mindset that gays can openly serve without issue, we need to abolish the mindset that men and women can’t bunk together. That’s all I’m saying. Let gays in and become a Starship Troopers-type military. It’s that easy. You abolish the separate of sexes and I’ll agree to abolish the separate of sexual preferences.

    • “most of society was still segregated even after the military was integrated.” Maybe in your world, but that was not true where I grew up.

      BTW, you never give any reasons for separating people by gender. That is as bad as separating people by race, isn’t it? Aren’t we all equal?

  10. “You abolish the separate of sexes and I’ll agree to abolish the separate of sexual preferences.”

    That’s just the point – there is no separation of men based on sexual preferences or orientation. Gay men and straight men use the same locker rooms, bathrooms, etc. Lesbians and straight women use the same locker rooms, bathrooms, etc.

    • This is all becoming circular logic. The reason we are separated by sexes is because of attraction. We’re the same people, at least that’s what feminists and equal opportunity experts. Women can do everything men can do, so why do we separate them? Because there is an attraction issue. It’s no different than the attraction issue between homosexuals except the body parts are similar.

      • CJ, let it go. Its more homofacisim (cool word my Major came up with to counter homophobic), they can’t take NO for an answer and just don’t get the whole “I get to shower with the sex that I find sexually attractive and you dont” thing.

  11. “‘most of society was still segregated even after the military was integrated.’ Maybe in your world, but that was not true where I grew up.”

    Much of society was still segregated after the integration of the US military. The military was integrated during the Truman administration. Public schools weren’t integrated until the Eisenhower administration, and interracial marriage was still illegal in several states until 1967. There were areas were integration of schools and legalization of interracial marriage predated integration of the military, but it certainly wasn’t the entire nation.

    A similar phenomenon exists in the military where some gay troops come out to their peers. Sometimes the commander even hears about it, but does nothing. Sure, they’re supposed to disregard rumors. But if the presence of a gay soldier is such a horrible threat to unit cohesion and morale, wouldn’t it be safer to pursue those rumors? Wouldn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.

  12. Politicians make the laws as advised by military leaders in matters of the military. If you have never served a day in the military: shut up. You know nothing about being in a unit that eats, sleeps, lives, breathes, showers, [poops] sweats and bleeds as one. Do not purport to change things from the outside as social experimentation unless you have walked the same mile as those inside.
    The interpersonal dynamics of a unit are nowhere near the same as social dynamics. Sexual conduct is not the same as color of skin. Nowhere in society has racial and socio-economic equality been more successful than the military.

  13. Pingback: Casey Speaks Up About DADT | A Soldier's Perspective

  14. *Only my personal opinion*, I’ve served, and came out with my with my DD-214, Honorable Discharge and the whole bit. But I also believe the non-fratranization regs should be strictly enforced. You shouldn’t change the regs, while you’re in a conflict deploying troops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>