DADT: "This Is Done"
On Dec. 18, 2010, 17 years of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell came to a historic end. We thank the members of the House and Senate who voted to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country without living a lie.
And we thank President Obama, who signed the bill on Dec. 22, for living up to his campaign promise to repeal DADT.
This milestone would not have happened without the steadfast gay activists, both in and out of the military, who fought to end this ban.
Many political groups can take pride in their efforts. Within a day of the passing, the group Get Equal issued a statement acknowledging the work of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and others by promoting on Facebook that “Yes, We ALL Did repeal DADT.” And that’s not counting the brave individuals like Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, Lt. Dan Choi and others who fought back in the courts and the more than 13,500 soldiers who were forced out of the military when their sexual orientation was discovered or reported.
Of our local representatives in the Senate, Claire McCaskill of Missouri voted for the repeal. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback voted no, even though their terms ended in 2010, and so did Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.
In the House, Rep. Dennis Moore of Kansas and Reps. William Clay, Russ Carnahan and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri voted yes. Voting no were, in Kansas, Reps. Jerry Moran, Lynn Jenkins and Todd Tiahrt, and in Missouri, Reps. W. Todd Akin, Ike Skelton, Sam Graves, Roy Blunt, Jo Ann Emerson and Blaine Luetkemeyer.
In 1950, President Harry Truman signed the Uniform Code of Military Justice, creating discharge rules for homosexuals in the military. President Ronald Reagan issued a defense directive in 1982 stating that homosexuality is incompatible with military service to give more weight to the discharge of gays and lesbians in the military.
But the DADT policy was signed into effect in December 1993 by President Bill Clinton, who offered this as a compromise to Reagan’s defense directive. Ironically Clinton ran for president saying that he would lift the ban on gays and lesbians being able to serve but in the end had to issue the DADT compromise. President Obama also campaigned on the platform that he would repeal DADT, but at times it was looking like this might be a futile effort.
Thankfully, the pressure to end DADT didn’t let up.
In October 2010 a U.S. District Court judge ruled that DADT is unconstitutional, but in November 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay pending appeal.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has stated on its website: “There are still, however, many more steps in this process before the law is actually repealed. Until that time, DADT remains the law and it is unsafe to come out.” SLDN goes on to state that the next steps for implementation of the repeal of DADT will be:
• Certification: The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that the Defense Department is prepared to implement repeal.
• 60-day waiting period: DADT will still be the law until 60 days after certification.
In the February 2010 issue of Camp, we published a story about how local activists protested on a freezing January afternoon outside the downtown Marriott where Missouri’s U.S. Rep Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was speaking to the Rotary Club. Beth Schissel, a former Air Force physician, spoke out about how she felt she had no choice but to resign before being outed.
Other speakers at the rally were Jackson County legislator and veteran Theresa Garza Ruiz, Jackson County legislator Scott Burnett and Kansas City Councilwoman Jan Marcason. The group was asking for Skelton to hold the hearing to begin the discussion of the repeal of DADT, but he was reluctant to do so. In November, Skelton was defeated in the mid-term elections.
On Feb. 2, Missouri State Sen. Jolie Justus spoke on the floor of the State Senate about her introduction of a resolution urging the Missouri General Assembly to “send a message to Washington, D.C., that it is time to end the outdated military policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Justus went on to describe an Army veteran, Shonda Garrison, who felt she had no choice but to resign from the military “because she could no longer serve in silence. Shonda is gay and under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, she could not enter a committed relationship with the person she loves for fear of losing her career. Shonda Garrison is my partner, and she supports the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Camp followed up in the March issue with interviews of Air Force veteran Beth Schissel and Army veteran Shonda Garrison, who offered their personal stories of serving in the military and of the pain of feeling that they had no choice but to resign. Garrison described a letter she wrote about DADT. The closing paragraph summed up her feelings:, “In closing, I would like to say something in reference to what President Obama said in his SOTU speech. In his ending statement he talked about how he and the American people were not quitters. Well, I’m not a quitter either. I didn’t quit on my country during the first Gulf War, so I hope you, President Obama and others who can change this civil injustice, don’t quit on veterans like me and all the LGBT service members we have fighting for us right now in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The majority of Americans indicated in several polls that they were fine with the repeal of DADT, and so did many military leaders. As Obama said when he signed the bill, “This is done.”
To the brave gay and lesbian soldiers who have been forced out of the military and those who can soon serve openly, along with our activists, organizations and courageous politicians who voted for the repeal, thank you.