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Pentagon Issues New Guidelines for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The Pentagon announced today that it will relax enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until Congress acts to repeal the policy. According to the Washington Post, the military will no longer investigate service members’ sexual orientation based on anonymous tips, will reduce third party testimony, and will require high-level review of all expulsions based on sexual orientation. The changes take effect immediately and will impact all current cases, but do not apply retroactively. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a press conference that the changes provide “a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved.” He continued, “These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law, including a need for consistent oversight and clear standards,” reported ABC. President Obama announced a promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his State of the Union Address on January 27. He said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” In February, top US military leaders also announced they would conduct a year-long review of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Earlier this month, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced a bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, in the Senate to repeal the policy. This legislation will be discussed as part of the Annual Defense Authorization Bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. The policy was instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being lesbian or gay. Thus far, the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops. Department of Defense data obtained in 2009 by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that proportionately more women were discharged from the military under the policy in 2008 than men. Women account for only 15 percent of the military, yet one-third of the 619 troops discharged under the policy in 2008 were women.

Sources:

Washington Post 3/25/10; ABC 3/25/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/4/10, 10/9/09

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