The future of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”

Obama and his team pledged to work on overturning the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which only allows gays and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military if they keep secret their sexual orientation.

According to the Boston Globe, although getting rid of this law is on Obama’s agenda, he “does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline.”

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which was signed by President Bill Clinton, was on one hand a progressive move, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, but on the other hand, it is still restrictive. It discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, and it violates the First Amendment right of some service members.


As The First Amendment Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition, writes: “The military policy makes no distinction between speech and conduct. A celibate service member, even a virgin, professing to be gay will be discharged for homosexual conduct.”

Lambda Legal, which is an NCAC participating organization, has fought at length to eliminate “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They have argued that the law infringes on the rights of gays’ and lesbians’ to free speech and free expression:

Previous challenges to “don’t ask, don’t tell” have involved service members who simply came out (or were found out) and about whom there was no evidence of sexual conduct; those cases have focused nearly exclusively on the constitutionality of the ban on that particular speech — coming out — and on the propriety of the law’s presumption, which assumes that anyone who comes out engages in the “homosexual conduct” also prohibited by “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The military consistently has argued that it does not intend to silence gay men and lesbians, but rather that it uses statements as evidence of conduct, which it claims to be free to regulate.

We hope the U.S. military can soon eradicate this law that has too long silenced the voice of many. Take action: join the petition to Congress to lift the law through the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

About Blog of the National Coalition Against Censorship

Blogging Censorship is where National Coalition Against Censorship staff weigh in on the censorship issues on their minds.
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