Sept. 20 marks the end of an era for gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, and the non-profit Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is trying to prepare gay active duty service members for the historic change.
Since 1993, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has banned gay Americans from serving openly in the armed services. The policy will officially end Sept. 20, the day a 60-day review period will have ticked away following certification of military readiness to implement repeal.
Not surprisingly, some organizations, including SLDN, plan to celebrate the end of the 18-year-old ban. Two such events — a Retreat Ceremony on Sept. 19 and Repeal Day Celebration on Sept. 20 — are scheduled for Atlanta.
Sept. 20 will mark a major turning point in the fight for LGBT equality, as the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a law that bans gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly, will finally be repealed. At least two local events are planned to commemorate the milestone.
Passed by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the basis for some 14,000 military discharges during its 18 year-history.
The repeal effort was one of the final acts of the Democratically controlled 111th Congress and fulfilled a 2008 campaign pledge from President Barack Obama.
“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Obama said after Congress passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 in late December.
A federal appellate court issued an order late July 15 prohibiting the U.S. government from discharging additional service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while allowing recruiters to continue to bar openly gay people from enlisting in the armed forces.
The order from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals partially reinstates a stay on an injunction barring the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The injunction was reissued by the appellate court July 6 after it was first issued by a U.S. district court last year.
“[T]he stay entered November 1, 2010, is reinstated temporarily in all respects except one,” the order states. “The district court’s judgment shall continue in effect insofar as it enjoins appellants from investigating, penalizing, or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a ruling today which effectively halted the enforcement of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. The three-judge panel previously blocked an order from Federal Judge Virginia Phillips in 2010 after her ruling in the case Log Cabin Republicans vs. United States found the policy to be unconstitutional.
A stay was issued to allow the policy to remain in place while the repeal made its way through Congress, but the three-judge panel said today that “The circumstances and balance ofhardships have changed, and appellants/cross-appellees can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay.”
The law, commonly known as DADT, was repealed during the final days of the 111th Congress, though service members must wait for the president, the head of the Department of Defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs to certify repeal before gay and lesbian soldiers can begin to serve openly.
The armed services are currently in the process of training soldiers and other personnel for the change in policy and are expected to have all service members trained by mid-summer.
President Barack Obama held a reception yesterday honoring LGBT Pride Month. Several LGBT Atlantans, including James Parker Sheffield, Executive Director of the Atlanta Pride Committee, and Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, attended. You can read their story here.
The reception comes as advocacy organizations step up the pressure on the president, and in particular, his stance on same-sex marriage. The president, who called the recent passage of marriage equality in New York "a good thing," has shied away from outright support of marriage equality.
Obama instead used yesterday's reception to highlight his achievements in the equality movement, citing hate crimes legislation, hospital visitation, removing the HIV travel ban and the repeal of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.
The United States Army has put together an informational website regarding the upcoming repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
According to the Army, the website was launched last week to provide the most up-to-date information for servicemembers and their families on the law's repeal.
"It's a way for the Army to provide the latest and greatest information about the repeal to Soldiers, family members and the public," said spokesperson Lt. Col Timothy M. Beninato via a media release.
Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been officially repealed with President Barack Obama’s signature, when the repeal will actually be implemented is still not determined.
For more than 20 years, American Veterans for Equal Rights has sought fairness for LGBT people in the military and to make sure LGBT veterans have access to benefits, says Danny Ingram of Decatur. Ingram is the former Georgia AVER chapter president and now serves as the national president for the nonprofit organization.
Each year the Georgia AVER chapter holds a Taps service at Piedmont Park on Memorial Day.
“The national organization started about 21 years ago in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia chapter was formed about eight years by Jeff Cleghorn, who is now a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund,” Ingram says.
Hourly rate the U.S. House planned to pay law firm King & Spalding to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on gay marriage.
The initial cap on congressional payments to King & Spalding, which could be negotiated higher.
What the military spent from 2004 to 2009 to replace gay troops discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The policy is now being repealed.
Estimated cost of one congressional hearing. Since resuming control of the U.S. House, Republicans have held three on gay issues: Two on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and one on DOMA.
The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing today on the implementation of the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” For the first time since the repeal was signed into law by President Barack Obama late last year, the military's service chiefs were called before Congress to testify on the anti-gay policy's repeal.
Though no firm date for full repeal was given, several service chiefs said their branches are aiming to complete training before mid-summer and that most were on track or ahead of schedule with regard to training.
Today's hearing featured Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who represented the Army in the place of Gen. George Casey, who was tending to family matters.
OutServe, a collection of underground LGBT military personnel, announced today that it will publish a new magazine geared toward gay servicemembers. OutServe was formed in 2010 as the debate over the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy moved into the political spotlight.
The magazine's inaugural cover highlights a United States military in a post-DADT era.
“Our first objective with the magazine is to let all the gay, lesbian, bi, and trans members currently serving know that they are not alone,” said OutServe’s co-director, an active-duty officer who goes by the pseudonym JD Smith, via a press release. “And we also want to communicate to all troops that there are capable gay military members serving honorably, and that accepting that and moving on will make our military stronger.”