Two years ago today, on September 20, 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed. The discriminatory and stigmatizing 1994 policy that barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers from serving openly in the military has had a damaging impact on the strength of the armed forces during one of the most dangerous military times in a generation.
As a result of DADT, more than 13,500 women and men were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Alarmingly, 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).
The process to repeal this policy began in December 2010 when Congress passed a measure laying the groundwork for repeal, pending certification from the leaders of the Armed Forces that repeal would not compromise military readiness.
In response, 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.
In response to the end of this policy, President Obama remarked “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.”
Sadly, this is not yet true. Transgender servicemembers are still barred from open service in the military, perpetuating a stigma on transgender individuals and costing the Armed Forces strong and capable members who want to serve their country.
In order to truly animate the sentiment of the President’s words, crucial work is still needed to remove barriers to open transgender service. NCLR is proud to continue this fight and ensure that the policy governing servicemembers lives up to the principle held by servicemembers – that no one is left behind.