One thing I have noticed in the debate over homosexuals in the military is that roughly 99.5% of the American public, including 99.5% of long-time Washington political reporters and 99.5% of members of Congress, believe three key things about the issue.

  1. The current policy regarding homosexuals in the military is governed by a law known as Dont Ask, Dont Tell.
  2. Under current law, homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military as long as they are not open about their sexual orientation.
  3. Doing away with Dont Ask, Dont Tell would allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

Each of these three statements is false.

Dont Ask, Dont Tell is not the law of the land. It was a compromise policy announced by the Clinton Administration in July of 1993, after their original proposal to simply open the military to homosexuals was widely rejected.[i]

When Congress adopted legislation on this issue in November of 1993, they did not say that homosexuals were welcome to serve in the military. On the contrary, they declared, 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.[ii]

Doing away with the Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy would only allow more consistent enforcement of the current law against homosexuality in the military, unless Congress were to also repeal the law that they adopted in 1993.

For the record, here are the findings that Congress madeand that President Clinton signed into lawin 1993. This is the current law regarding homosexuality in the military:

Congress makes the following findings:

`(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.


[i] Susan Yoachum and Carolyn Lochhead, Clinton Orders New Gay-GI Policy: He concedes few will like compromise, The San Francisco Chronicle, July 20, 1993, p. A1.

[ii] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, Public Law 103-160, November 30, 1993, Title V, Subtitle G, Sec. 571, Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces (10 U.S.C. 654); online at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c103:5:./temp/~c103HPMAIr:e399464: