Military Gay Ban Ending in September

The ban on gays openly serving in the military will end in September, nine months after President Obama signed the repeal into law.

The ban on gays openly serving in the military will end in September, nine months after President Obama signed the repeal into law.

WSJ (“Military Gay Ban to End in 60 Days“):

Top Pentagon leaders will notify Congress as early as Friday that the Defense Department is ready to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military, officials said, a landmark moment after almost two decades of controversy.

The action means the ban will formally disappear in late September. The next step for the military is to resolve lingering questions, such as what benefits same-sex couples will receive.

While the military will be free to provide some services to same-sex spouses, such as family support for spouses of deployed service members, federal law blocks it from providing them the full range of health, housing and education benefits available to opposite-sex couples.

Under a law passed late last year by Congress, the repeal of the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law will go into effect 60 days after the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that military readiness won’t be harmed by the repeal of the ban. Spokesmen for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment Thursday.

On July 6, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the military to halt enforcement the ban, which has halted discharges under the policy and prevented recruiters from turning away openly gay recruits. On July 15, the court modified its ruling, but prohibited the Defense Department from discharging any gay or lesbian service members. Gay-rights advocates have advised service members not to reveal their sexual identity until the ban is formally repealed.

I never cease to be annoyed that these stories frame the debate as if the ban on gays in the military started with DADT. In fact, DADT was a softening of existing policy. President Bill Clinton intended to lift the ban outright and suffered enormous public backlash and a near-mutiny of the military brass. DADT was a compromise. The “Don’t Ask” part was intended to be the key: Military officials were no longer allowed to inquire about a soldier or prospective soldier’s sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the “Don’t Tell” part became more important, creating witch hunts.

It’s worth noting that I was among those outraged by Clinton’s attempt to end the ban and deeply concerned that the integration of homosexuals into the force would damage unit cohesion and fighting esprit. I was wrong.

It’s possible, though, that an outright lifting of the ban on gays in 1992 would have created upheaval. American attitudes about homosexuality have changed radically in the intervening period; it’s the most rapid shift on fundamental values that I’ve witnessed. Indeed, my own views have changed with, and probably ahead of, those of society at large.

Regardless, while still more conservative than their non-military cohort, young soldiers now regard homosexuality as a simple fact of life and see no reason why gays can’t serve. Indeed, they were well ahead of the brass on this one.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Will says:

    Yawn. From my perspective as a submarine officer, I care more if a guy is vegan.

  2. John Peabody says:

    In 1992, I had a senior NCO say that he was concerned about homosexual assaults. I had to tell him that the UCMJ was not being repealed…but he was from the school where all gays were monsters, ready to deflower the next lad they saw from Oregon. Yawn. I care more if the guy next to me had beans for lunch.

  3. Kolohe says:

    @Will: I knew a guy on a boat in the 90’s who was very observant Orthodox Jewish and brought his own food and cooking utensils onboard to keep kosher.