The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Gates Sharply Limits ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

This thing is on its way to an end, a military spokesman says.

Paolo Reyna
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Mar 25, 2010

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Matthieu Rondel/Maxppp/ZUMA Press)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Matthieu Rondel/Maxppp/ZUMA Press)

In a major victory for opponents of the military’s ban on open homosexual service, Defense Secretary Robert Gates significantly revised how the Pentagon will implement the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, effectively making it difficult to remove a soldier, sailor, airman or marine who does not out himself or herself as gay.

[Security1]Gates said the changes, endorsed by Joint Chiefs of Staff and vetted by the Pentagon’s top lawyer, would add “a greater measure of common sense and common decency” for service members negatively impacted by the law. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy organization for gay and lesbian service members, considered Gates’ changes a “major step toward the end of the law,” according to spokesman Kevin Nix.

Starting today, only a general officer in an accused service member’s chain of command can discharge someone for a violation of the ban, and only an officer with the rank of commander or lieutenant colonel or higher can conduct a fact-finding inquiry to recommend a discharge. The standards of evidence provided to those inquiries will become far less burdensome on the accused, with what Gates called “special scrutiny on third parties who may be motivated to harm the service member.” Entire categories of evidence will no longer be admissible, including testimony from clergy members, physicians, abuse counselors, security-clearance review personnel and mental-health personnel — a move that also significantly improves troops’ quality of life.

“A good friend of mine just left the Navy as a Navy doctor,” said Christopher Anders, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Anders said that while his friend never turned in service members for violating the ban, the gay ban “was an obstacle to medical care,” as some personnel opted not to pursue certain medical care out of fear that treatment might be used against them in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearing.

Seated beside Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who forcefully endorsed repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, Gates said at a press conference this morning that the new procedural changes apply to all ongoing investigations related to the ban on open gay military service. Gates clarified that he would not endorse any changes to the law until he sees the results of a review led by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham due by the end of the year. But Gates also clarified that the Johnson/Ham review “is about how you implement” a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and “not about ‘should we do it.’”

While recent polls show repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is broadly popular among both civilians and Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans, there has been some opposition to the looming repeal from senior levels of the military. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, favored keeping the gay ban in testimony last month. Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon wrote a letter to “Stars & Stripes” earlier this month urging advocates of the gay ban to “write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views.”

That letter earned Mixon a rebuke from Mullen this morning. “That letter was not an appropriate letter,” he said. Mullen reminded Mixon that “as a three-star leader in command, he has great influence,” and “all of us in uniform are obliged to follow the leadership of the president,” who urged an end to the gay servicemember ban in his State of the Union address in January.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced a bill earlier this month to repeal the ban. A statement from Lieberman and his co-sponsors reacting to Gates’ changes in implementing the ban is expected later today.

While Anders hailed Gates’ changes, he noted that the defense secretary did not exercise all his authority to relieve some of the onerous provisions of the ban. Gates did not endorse a recent ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that said the military must prove servicemember discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are vital to unit cohesion or combat readiness. Nor did Gates reverse a policy that cuts troops’ separation pay in half if the cause of their discharge from the military is a violation of the gay ban. Gates also clarified at his press conference that the changes are not retroactive, and so service members who were kicked out of the military for violating the ban will not be able to appeal their cases under the new rules.

Still, Anders said, Gates’ changes “are really important steps forward, obviously.”

Nix said that the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund’s attorneys are reviewing the changes to determine what they mean for their clients, but that they dealt a serious blow to the ban.

“At the end of the day, what happened today is an important signal to Congress that repeal needs to happen this year,” Nix said. “What the secretary’s recommendations should tell Congress is this thing is on its way to an end, and Congress’s responsibility is to get rid of the law once and for all.”

Update: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote issued by Adm. Mullen to Secretary Gates.

Paolo Reyna | Paolo is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in International Studies with a Latin American emphasis. During the fall semester of 2012, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, which piqued his interest in international growth. He learned about the disparities that impact indigenous peoples, got a taste of Peruvian culture, and improved his Spanish skills. Mitchel interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America, after being inspired by his foreign experience. He wants to work in international development and for a government department, writing legislation. He loves playing intramural basketball and practicing for the Chicago marathon when he is not thinking about current events in Latin America.


Giffords shooting leads nation to introspection and political finger wagging

In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this weekend that critically injured Rep.

EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management

At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from

E-Verify Mandate Begins Today

The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm

EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules

The EPA seal (Pic via The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.

EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann  has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.

EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’

In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work

EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria

The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards

EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’

All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of

EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |