On A Scale Of One To Repealed, How Repealed Is DADT?

Pop quiz! What is America’s current status w/r/t Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

a) It’s been repealed, so gay soldiers can serve
b) It hasn’t actually been officially repealed yet, so gays can’t serve
c) Everyone but Dan Choi can enlist
d) Gay soldiers can serve, but trans soldiers can’t
e) Men can marry horses or turtles now, someone needs to save the children.

I know right? Harder than you thought. Anyways, the correct answer is (sort of) b. In actuality, the legislative repeal is the ONLY part that’s official; the problem is that Army officials haven’t signed off yet on the Pentagon’s ‘review’ of how best to implement it, and so no changes have been made so far. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening, though! Pam’s House Blend has a solid roundup of what each service branch is up to (and by “each service branch” I think I just mean two, apparently there are five total? Who knew?) as far as beginning the implementation process. Here’s the basics:

+ The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is calling for the Department of Defense to create Special Boards to deal with the logistics of reinstating people back to the army who were discharged under DADT – correcting their records and processing their applications to re-enlist. “Creating these Special Boards will be one of the first important steps the Defense Department can take to help former service members who were harmed by the DADT law,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.” You can see their letter addressed directly to Defense Secretary Robert Gates here.

+ In the Navy, a complicated training program that I don’t understand will be instituted. It has THREE LEVELS:

1. Commanders, executive officers and command master chiefs will be trained by “mobile training teams” of experts and fleet representatives. These leaders, in turn, will be expected to train their commands.

2. All hands will receive instruction on the new policy and expectations for personal behavior. In cases in which sailors are assigned to non-Navy units or are unavailable, they will complete the training with their parent command or online.

3. Separate training will be provided to those who will enforce or support the new policy, such as recruiters, judge advocates and chaplains.

What does anyone need to be trained to do when they have in fact been personally behaving around gay people (albeit some closeted ones) forever? And what does the process entail? I don’t know. Here, here is an older white man in a uniform to explain it.

OutServe, an underground network of enlisted queers, has revealed this internal communique about implementation repeal, which is remarkable both in its surprisingly sincere tone and in how much it sounds like the speech of a robot overlord.


A. LEADERSHIP. This is a major policy change and focused leadership is required to set conditions for success for unit cohesion, readiness, and the effectiveness of a given command. Frontline leaders are tasked with building unit cohesion and maintaining readiness in a diverse force to meet mission requirements. By providing leaders at all levels with accurate information, we enhance our ability to ensure a smooth policy transition with minimal disruption to the force.

B. PROFESSIONALISM. We have taken an oath as military professionals to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and we are committed to our navy core values. Emphasizing these professional obligations in a post-repeal environment will reinforce expectations of personal behavior and will help reduce any impact a policy change may have on our effectiveness.

C. DISCIPLINE. The uniform code of military justice (UCMJ) emains the legal foundation of good order and discipline. The ucmj provides for enforcement of standards of conduct and laws and prohibits harassment, sexual assault, and other violence. Accountability is a cornerstone of good order and discipline and will continue to guide standards of acceptable behavior.

D. RESPECT. As leaders we must focus on our values and Navy traditions as the foundation for maintaining the strength of our force. Central to that strength is treating all people with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation.

A more complicated question is what the situation is with current discharges; technically they haven’t ceased, and it’s hard to find information on whether anyone has been newly discharged since the legislative decision. It seems like that would be counterintuitive, as someone would probably eventually have to go to the trouble (and money) of re-processing the same person, but the military is a mysterious beast. If anyone does have personal insight or experience with this question, feel free to share.

The good news about the military is that regardless of how its leaders may feel as individuals, they are deeply committed to obeying orders even if they don’t like them, and to taking an action-oriented approach to problemsolving. These documents give us some hope that after everything it took to get this repeal, things may be downhill or at least slightly inclined from here on out. Let’s hope that we can have at least one successful military endeavor in our time, and that it can be one that’s about restoring human rights peacefully and with (relative) grace.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I’ll share: discharges have essentially ceased since the president made it so that only the service chiefs (that is, the highest ranking officer in each branch) to sign off on the papers. Exact numbers will remain unknown until the Pentagon chooses to release recent discharges; however, I suspect that had anyone been discharged since the repeal, the media would have gotten wind of it and blown it up. Basically, you can’t just get kicked out anymore–the highest ranking guy in your branch, who obviously has better things to do since he’s on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has to sign off on it.

    I’d be willing to do more regular military updates if you guys need!

    • I’d like to put a vote in for that! That would be awesome!

      And, may I say (I’m assuming you’re in the military, from your comments), thank you for your service.

    • Good to know! I do a lot of work with the military, so I am always trying to keep up to date on policy changes. It kinda breaks my heart to walk around bases as a civilian, completely free to tell people about my wife if I want to (I usually don’t, though). I’m really looking forward to things changing in a positive way.

  2. “Central to that strength is treating all people with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation.”

    I know the problem hasn’t been completely solved or put into place yet, and I know harassment will likely continue in some form, but it still felt really good to read that sentence. I’ve been worked up about DADT for as long as I can remember. It feels great to make this kind of progress, even if we’re not all the way there yet.

    • Also meant to say great article, Rachel! Thanks for keeping us informed on further DADT developments.

  3. Rachel, thank you for being dedicated to keeping us all informed! Because of you, I feel smarter/like I read more news.

  4. I am so glad that they have this training planned for transitioning into a gay-friendly environment. In July of 2009, I was discharged from the Navy under DADT by request. For the 2 years I was serving, though, I regularly faced harassment from my peers for being openly gay. (Partly my fault, I guess, since, at the time, it was still against the policy. I just didn’t care.) Anyways, I think it is absolutely necessary that all the homophobes who will be serving along side the newly outed LGBTQ soldiers receive all the training they can get!

  5. This is a great article and really informative but – and maybe this is because I haven’t slept in a couple of days – I really just loved all your jokes. Specifically, I laughed at the title and also at the robot overlords line. Like you’re really funny, Rachel.

  6. The problem isn’t solved at all as of yet.

    Sure professionalism, leadership, discipline and respect are necessary- but they provide no real protections when someone is less than professional, a leader, disciplined or respectful.
    The Service Women’s Action Network recently posted about this issue http://gay.americablog.com/2011/01/swans-anu-bhagwati-on-dods-civil-rights.html, by saying:
    “Without written protections, and the consistent enforcement of those protections, servicemembers are at risk of daily harassment and discrimination from bigots.”

    These training will likely become excessive and just annoy people while not providing no protection for people harassed or denied tangible rights based on sexual orientation. The current situation does not protect gay servicemembers nor will it turn the military gay-friendly environment. It simply allows some pockets of gay-friendly environments should the individual servicemembers choose to do such.
    In comparrison the military is simply transitioning to a workplace not unlike civilian workplaces that “allow” gay people to work there but also allow said workplace to create a living hell for gay people who will self impose DADT in order to not make any waves. Many of us know what it is like to live closeted at a job for fear of repercussions because the state you live in does not have a non-discrimination policy for LGBT people or because you work with homophobic people who will make your life a living hell.

  7. “The good news about the military is that regardless of how its leaders may feel as individuals, they are deeply committed to obeying orders even if they don’t like them, and to taking an action-oriented approach to problemsolving.”

    BALDERDASH! With respect, your ability to believe that shows you know nothing about the many ways racist officers sabatoged equality for blacks in the military for DECADES after Truman order integration. Or to summarize the great piece by SWAN: they are INTENTIONALLY setting up a kind of gay variation on the “Jim Crow Army” in which one is allowed to serve but not equally.

    As they note, even though Don’t Harass has been a policy, too, since at least 1999, harassment of those thought to be gay is still a HUGE problem, as documented by a 2004 Palm Center study:

    “The military has created a two-class system with gay and lesbian service members in the second class. For example, the Pentagon’s ban on racial harassment includes a broader mandate against race discrimination. And, the ban on race discrimination is reinforced by several provisions, which include the Department of Defense (DoD) Human Goals Charter 1 and the DoD Equal Opportunity Directive. ‘These provisions do not treat racial harassment and race discrimination separately; rather, racial harassment is considered a form of prohibited race discrimination’, wrote [the study’s author]. The military’s ban on harassment of gay and lesbian officers, however, is not ‘codified’….”

    To which SLDN added: “There is no available avenue for service members who would typically report discrimination [based on sexual orientation] through an equal opportunity office. … In reality when a service member does report it through the chain of command it is rarely taken seriously. There’s no consequence for commanders who ignore anti-gay harassment. The environment has created second-class citizenship for gay and lesbian service members and it permeates all military.”

    Further, the director of the Palm Center said last month that the Pentagon could end the ban TODAY “if there was the political will” [READ: if Obama wanted them to]. And they released a report in December saying:

    “Any claim that [implementation cannot happen] until after the completion of exhaustive training is inconsistent with DoD history and not based on military necessity. Whatever preparations are ultimately deemed necessary, the Pentagon ought to be able to pull them off faster than it did the implementation of DADT in 1994, which took approximately 40 days. [C]ase studies demonstrate that training can take place quickly, even in combat zones, and that policies are generally implemented BEFORE OR CONCURRENT WITH training. The Pentagon’s request for up to a year to train the troops prior to the repeal of DADT is unprecedented. Training is not a prerequisite…to claim otherwise is a vote of no confidence in members of the armed forces, is not supported empirically, and is suspiciously dilatory. Training, like the formal publication of instructions, can occur (and has occurred) ex post facto.”

    BOTTOMLINE: they’re dragging their heels just as long as they possibly can.

    • I understand pretty much none of this comment aside from the first and last sentence (which I’m choosing to believe is because I’m not American and don’t understand the American legal system unless it was covered on Schoolhouse Rock, not because of my general failure at legalese) but seeing “BALDERDASH!” used seriously made my day.

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