Officials Expect Smooth ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 — The law is passed, the stud­ies com­plet­ed, the find­ings cer­ti­fied and the ser­vice mem­ber train­ing accom­plished. Today, after years of debate and months of prepa­ra­tion, the Defense Depart­ment starts on a new foot­ing with the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that since 1993 has banned gays and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary.

“State­ments about sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion will no longer be a bar to enlist­ing in the mil­i­tary or a cause for dis­missal,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Pat­ton, chief of staff for the Pentagon’s repeal imple­men­ta­tion team.

In addi­tion, for­mer ser­vice mem­bers sep­a­rat­ed from the mil­i­tary under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell based sole­ly on their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion will be eli­gi­ble to reap­ply to return to mil­i­tary ser­vice. Pat­ton said their appli­ca­tions will be eval­u­at­ed using the same stan­dards as all oth­er can­di­dates, and deci­sions will be based on needs of the ser­vice.

As these long-antic­i­pat­ed changes take place, Pat­ton said he expects the repeal imple­men­ta­tion to stay on track because of the pre-repeal train­ing across the force. In addi­tion, many oth­er exist­ing poli­cies con­sid­ered “sex­u­al-ori­en­ta­tion neu­tral” remain in place.

Duty assign­ments won’t be affect­ed, and liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions won’t change, Pat­ton said. Ser­vice mem­bers won’t be sep­a­rat­ed or seg­re­gat­ed based on sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, and will con­tin­ue to share bil­let­ing and berthing as in the past.

With repeal, ben­e­fits will remain as they are. Ser­vice mem­bers will be able to des­ig­nate whomev­er they want to receive mem­ber-des­ig­nat­ed ben­e­fits such as Serviceman’s Group Life Insur­ance, he said. Oth­er ben­e­fits, such as basic allowance for hous­ing, are lim­it­ed by law and statute to cov­er only oppo­site-sex spous­es and can’t be extend­ed to same-sex part­ners, Pat­ton said.

How­ev­er, the Defense Depart­ment is study­ing the pos­si­ble exten­sion of oth­er ben­e­fits where eli­gi­bil­i­ty is not specif­i­cal­ly defined by law, such as use of mil­i­tary morale, wel­fare and recre­ation facil­i­ties to same-sex part­ners. “We have not arrived at a deci­sion on that,” Pat­ton said. “The depart­ment con­tin­ues to explore that pos­si­bil­i­ty, post-repeal.”

Although the vast major­i­ty of mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies sur­veyed before the repeal indi­cat­ed they had no issues with the repeal, Pat­ton said he rec­og­nizes that some may. To those, he has a mes­sage: “We are not try­ing to change your beliefs. You have your free­dom to exer­cise your beliefs and your free­dom of speech.”

But with that, he said, “you have to main­tain your dig­ni­ty and respect for oth­ers.”

No new pol­i­cy will allow any­one who dis­agrees with the repeal to break their con­trac­tu­al oblig­a­tions. Any­one who has com­plaints or issues asso­ci­at­ed with the repeal should take them to a com­man­der or inspec­tor gen­er­al, Pat­ton said. Sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion issues will not be addressed by equal oppor­tu­ni­ty chan­nels in the way gen­der, race and reli­gion issues are.

With the repeal in effect, Pat­ton said he expects mil­i­tary mem­bers will hon­or it. “The repeal is a law,” he said. “The mil­i­tary fol­lows the law and we are exe­cut­ing this as part of our mis­sion.”

A key in car­ry­ing out the mis­sion, he said, is a prin­ci­ple empha­sized dur­ing manda­to­ry pre-repeal train­ing through­out the force that the mil­i­tary has embraced through­out its his­to­ry.

“The train­ing focused on the changes in pol­i­cy, that sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion is not a rea­son for a per­son to be denied enlist­ment in the ser­vice or sep­a­rat­ed from the ser­vice. And that we con­tin­ue to treat all ser­vice mem­bers with dig­ni­ty and respect,” Pat­ton said.

Part of that respect, he said, is to allow all ser­vice mem­bers to live hon­est lives. “Dur­ing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay and les­bian ser­vice mem­bers were required by law to with­hold their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, and in some cas­es, they poten­tial­ly vio­lat­ed their own per­son­al integri­ty,” Pat­ton said. “Upon repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they won’t be placed in that predica­ment.”

As a result, the repeal “will strength­en the mil­i­tary,” he said. “It will con­tin­ue to allow us to keep gay and les­bian ser­vice mem­bers in the mil­i­tary, and we will be a bet­ter mil­i­tary for it.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)