Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Upon the urging of the Obama administration, Congress took up legislation in 2009 and 2010 that would repeal the sixteen-year-old ban on openly gay military service members known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). The policy prohibits any gay or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any gay relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the military. DADT also prohibits superiors from initiating investigation of a service member's sexual orientation in the absence of credible evidence of "homosexual conduct." The military has discharged thousands of gay and lesbian service members for allegedly violating the policy since it was adopted in 1993, including many service members who held critical occupations, such as engineers and interpreters. In March 2010, the Center for Inquiry produced a position paper that called for an immediate end to the policy.

CFI performed a detailed study of the arguments for and against repealing DADT. CFI's research found that maintaining DADT has significantly compromised the quality, effectiveness and readiness of the United States military. Because of the policy, the United States' already overstretched military has discharged thousands of valuable and experienced service members while also suffering a significant decline in recruitment. Two branches of the military have diluted their moral, aptitude and education standards to meet recruitment goals. DADT has cost the American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to discharge and train replacements for service members.

CFI's research also showed that the arguments in favor of maintaining have little basis in evidence or experience. Opposition to allowing gay and lesbian men and women to serve openly has largely crumbled among the public, the military's top leadership, and among service members. The notion that the presence of openly gay and lesbian service members would threaten "unit cohesion" or military effectiveness is belied by the experience of foreign militaries, by the past experience of the U.S. military, and by detailed studies commissioned by the Pentagon itself. CFI's position paper concludes that at a time when the United States is engaged in two major wars, it is critical that the military stop discharging valued service members that are crucial to maintaining its effectiveness.

CFI's position paper on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was authored by Derek C. Araujo, CFI's General Counsel and director of CFI's legal department. Mr. Araujo is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Prior to joining CFI's staff, Mr. Araujo practiced law at a major firm in New York City.

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