At Last! A Navy Vet Celebrates the End of DADT
No longer will the nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic LGB -- no "T" yet -- Americans because of their sexual orientation. On Sept. 20, the U.S. military’s ban on openly Gay service known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) will end. The nation’s estimated 65,000 active duty and reserve LGB troops will no longer be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country they love.
After 18 years and nearly 15,000 ruined military careers, our national nightmare is finally over.
Today, Tuesday, DADT has mercifully died.
This is the final nail in a coffin that began to be sealed in a monumental and historic moment for the LGBT community (and America) on Dec. 22, 2010, when President Barack Obama signed the DADT Repeal Act of 2010 during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Department of Defense, it should be noted, is the world’s largest employer.
"I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently," Obama assured the hundreds of cheering attendees at the ceremony. "We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done."
And he and his administration didn’t, either. From the time the DADT Repeal Act was signed until present day, only a handful of servicemembers were asked to leave the service under DADT (three of them to be exact, including one officer). The Pentagon set about -- under direct orders of President Obama, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and the Secretary of Defense -- implementing the repeal.
Since the beginning of January the new reality of openly LGB military began to take shape. Anti-Gay discrimination within the ranks of the U.S. armed forces is no longer acceptable behavior. Those who will not comply will be disciplined accordingly. We won.
But the victory did not come without a cost. Although DADT will not be looked at kindly by American history, its imprint on the lives of thousands of Americans will forever leave an imprint stemmed from bigotry and ignorance.
Some fought and won, while others lost. Some paved the way as others fell to the wayside. These are the casualties of a social justice war in which no Purple Heart medals were given. Just discharge papers.
DADT By the Numbers
The cost of DADT - in dollars and social impact - is staggering. In 1993, as a compromise between then-President Bill Clinton, the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, Clinton signed DADT into law, which mandated the discharge of openly LGB service members.
The discriminatory law has ruined more than 14,500 careers since the law became official Department of Defense policy. And that’s just the beginning. It is estimated that $1.3 billion has been spent by the U.S. government to ban gay servicemembers since 1980.
In 2001, under then-President George W. Bush, the number of servicemembers fired under DADT reached 1,273 -- the highest number of discharges in a single year to date. A 2003 GAO study identified almost $200 million in costs for the first ten years of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," while concluding that total costs could not be estimated. A follow-up study by an expert commission put these costs at more than $363 million.
In addition, the case could be made that by not allowing open LGB service the nation’s national security was made more vulnerable. While the CIA, FBI, State Department, the Defense Department on the civilian side, and defense contractors do not discriminate based on sexual orientation, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps did.
The Pentagon reports that 75 percent of young Americans are ineligible to serve in the military because of inadequate education, criminal records or weight problems. Conduct waivers have been given for recruits with records of bomb threats, sex crimes and negligent or vehicular homicide.
And yet qualified, smart, law-abiding and fit youths who want to serve have been excluded merely because of their sexual orientation. According to the GAO, as of 2003, the military had discharged more than 750 mission-critical service members and more than 320 with skills in important languages such as Arabic, Korean and Farsi.
Martyrs of DADT
The road to repeal has been a treacherous one. The journey to freedom’s mountain has claimed careers, marriages, and in some cases, lives.