Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Summary & History

Federal Legislation & Policy

Legislation: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act Of 2010

STATUS: Victory, Federal

On December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act (Repeal), which allowed for the repeal of the 1994 federal policy that barred LGB people from serving openly in the military. As President Obama remarked during the signing of the bill, “No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love.”

As a result of the 1994 DADT policy, more than 13,500 women and men were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Of equal importance, of the 619 people discharged under DADT in 2008, 45 percent were people of color (who represent 30 percent of the military), and 34 percent were women (who make up only 14 percent).

In December of 2010, legislation passed both the House and Senate and provided a pathway for the DADT repeal. Two months earlier, a federal judge in the Central District of Columbia held that DADT was unconstitutional.

In the months that followed Congress’ measure, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified in writing that they had reviewed the Pentagon’s report on the effects of DADT repeal and informed Congress that the Department of Defense had prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal and those policies and regulations comported with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and military recruiting and retention. On September 20, 2011, DADT was officially repealed.

Today, gay and lesbian service members are permitted to openly serve, and those who were previously discharged as a result of DADT, are able to re-enlist.

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