“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy on Gays in Military


The U.S. Army Forces are currently under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which governs the conduct of homosexual personnel. ” The policy allows gay people to serve in the military if they keep their sexual orientation confidential; it also restricts the military’s right to pursue information about a service member’s sexual orientation”(Williams 2001, 386-429). In most of the armed forces the policy is only enforced half the time. Military officers refrain from asking about sexual orientations, but still some homosexual cadets involve themselves in homosexual affairs. There may be a number of good reasons to encourage homosexuality in the military, but it seems more logical to keep the policy intact. The disagreement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is simply due to the discomfort of military heterosexuals, and the problems that are caused by the discomfort. The policy should remain intact, to avoid any kind of conflict. The policy helps secure the safety of all soldiers.

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“Homosexual behavior undermines military cohesion and morale. The services’ experience with mixing men and women in forced intimate situations for long periods suggests that adding homosexuals would create even more sexual tensions and anxiety in the ranks. Heterosexual soldiers feel that homosexuals in their unit threaten their privacy and find it harder to establish necessary levels of trust with them” (Online News Hour, web source, 2000). According to Service Members Legal Defense Network, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forces gay military personnel to live a lie as a condition of service. The law denies others the opportunity to know and learn from their gay colleagues.” (SLDN web source, 2007)

Without that trust,” Gays could damage the discipline and trust needed for success in combat situations.” (Rand Research Brief web source, 2000) There is a thought that homosexuals, out of requited desire for their platoon mates, might not provide adequate protection for all individuals in the unit-heterosexual and homosexual. Some fear that if open gay expression is allowed within military forces it would create a biased feeling toward one fellow soldier over another. On retired military gives the following hypothetical: “For instance, say that you are manning a vital field of fire with a heavy machine gun. In the foxhole just adjacent to your position, there are two men that are providing security for your heavy machine gun position. The assumption, of course, is that a gay or lesbian would routinely form inappropriately intimate bonds with people close by. With such close bonds of love, gays might be more unable to perform needed duties than two heterosexual friends in the same unit who cared deeply about another would.

“The fear of what gays might do in crucial situations would likely lead to radical measures on the part of the military to run the impulses, which could prove to be a logistical nightmare for forwarding units and the taxpayer’s dollar. To address the fear that gays are promiscuous sexual predators, there might be a push to build new quarters and latrines for gay and heterosexual service personnel. Should the military buy into thin desire, it would be costly. Without being a rocket scientist, anybody can reasonably assume that this type of change would be sky-high in figures as to what it would cost the taxpayers. In addition, this type of change would only cure half the problem and calm the prejudices and fears of only some personnel” (Online News Hour, web source, 2000).

“Military units that are prepared in combat situations are designed only to carry what they absolutely must have to get through their mission. How is a military unit, which is in operational status, going to able to segregate gay soldiers well enough to appease the frightened heterosexual soldiers, without being overloaded with the expectancy to accommodate the variety of sexual preferences?”(Williams 2001, 386-429)

It is written that all people are created equal, but in the military these legendary words are being forgotten. All people should be given a chance to give all they can for their country without any kind of hassle. There are occurring hate crimes all the time against the homosexuals in the military. “Joe Steffan was kicked out of Annapolis one week before graduation after revealing he was gay. Alan Schindler was a gay man in the Navy. He was brutally murdered when some of his shipmates found out he was gay”(Online News Hour, web source, 2000). Homosexuals in the military are not given the opportunity to be accepted human beings. In an ideal world populated by rational, unprejudiced, tolerant people, there is no good reason for a person to hide his or her sexuality in the military. From a completely balanced perspective, it doesn’t make sense. It has been mentioned that, “Gay and lesbian service members are discharged without regard to their skills, training, commitment or courage” (Human Rights Watch, web source, 2003).

During a time when fewer people are interested in a military career, the homosexual population is discouraged from enlisting. People all over the world, both adults and children, will tell you that American service members are the living example of honesty and truthfulness. However the policy of the military requires a gay or lesbian to lie and hide. “America prides itself on being a nation of liberty and tolerance… Yet it permits its military to remain a bastion of discrimination against gays and lesbians” (Rand Research Brief, 2000). The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” simply forces the many gays and lesbians in the military to live behind a cover story. “It undercuts the honesty and integrity that is the foundation of American military strength. They are entitled to the same rights as anybody else” (Rand Research Brief, web source, 2000).

The hate crimes could be prevented if homosexuals in the military will keep their personal lives away from the others. Gay soldiers aren’t taken from anything. The soldiers still have their lives, and very protected ones if that. Nobody lives in an ideal world and if everyone did there would be no prejudice or hate towards anyone not just homosexuals in the military. There is only the world that is here now. The money being spent on the enforcement policy doesn’t matter, because the government spends three times as many billion on welfare and building malls and other things. The money towards the policy is being well spent and is going to a reasonable good cause.

Many problems will be faced if the policy is removed. The hate crime level will rise, there may be fewer men or women enlisting in the war because the thought that they will not be properly protected, and such indications may affect fighting situations. “This goes on to show that the issue of gays in the military hasn’t and may not be resolved anytime soon” (Rand Research Brief, web source, 2000). Sexual orientation is a personal private issue and not one that finds the middle ground with national security. The right is noticed that homosexuals can freely express themselves; however, if free expression will not compromise with the strength of the American Military force, then it is their duty to abide by the policy until a better solution presents itself.

The United States is founded on the ideals of freedom. Included in these ideals is being able to choose your sexual preference without consequence. Right now, employers are not supposed to be biased against an employee for his or her gender, race, or sexual preference. Therefore, it seems plainly obvious that when a person joins the military his or her rights, as an employee of the government, should be honored. As of now there is a controversy over gays in the military. The opposition to gays being allowed in the military argues that there could be problems in combat or even in times of peace where soldiers do not feel comfortable around those other soldiers with a known sexual preference for members of the same sex. Accordingly, the trust and uniformity of troops is weakened, thus weakening the strength of our overall military power.

This argument, though it may bear some small relevance, is not supportive of our constitution which calls for equal rights and living for all Americans. The Congress has voted against gays in the military in 1996 but Bill Clinton made an agreement to have a “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” policy which is appropriate. In a one of a few questions answered in an email I sent to an army service office about the “don’t ask don’t tell policy” he regarded, “The system to be satisfactory for now, but something more permanent and more outlined was needed”. Military leaders like General Colin Powell admit that sexual orientation is not tied in with their jobs, but it is reported that leaders routinely look the other way while service members are scrutinized about their sexual orientation, and sometimes the other way around.

For those who have come out they are almost always discharged as their only effective recourse to stop threats and other harassment. The number of gays that are reported to be in the military and the ones that have come out are sometimes ignored because of either the need for that certain soldier, or for the blatant fact that they are not gay and want a way out the military. Sometimes a soldier’s things are improperly seized by commanders who look through their diaries, computer files and private letters. All of this seems wrong and looks like we are picking on potential good soldiers that want to serve and possibly die in the military for our country. If we are so absolved by gays being in the military, imagine what would happen if these gay people lost their military jobs and started looking for new ones. That is 1 out of every 3,000 Army Soldiers, 1 out of every 2,400 Air Force Pilots, 1 out of 1,400 Navy personnel, and 1 out of every 1,400 in other government offices that are out of jobs. (Rand Research Brief, web source, 2000)

The main idea that should be enacted is to keep their personal and working lives separate. That is what they are trying to conduct in the military but still to be less vague. The problem with defining a clearer law is that congress doesn’t want anything to do with gays being in the military. The number of service members discharged under the doesn’t ask, don’t tell policy in 1996 is proven to be minimal. But interesting statistics quoted in the Servicemen Legal Defense Network, are that although women make up only 13.1% of the armed forces, they account for 29% of being homosexual or violating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 1996. This opens up a door of more need for action and policy. How will the right be separated from the wrong? Will we choose to go along with the constitution or will we amend it in fear that gay people are not capable of doing the mission at hand and will be distracted by other gays.

Evaluating this scenario, Chad et. al. affirm that:

“When evaluating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by the measuring stick of its originally stated purposes, the policy is a qualified success. It has allowed homosexuals to enter military service with no “sexual orientation” barriers—“Don’t Ask.” When homosexual members can abstain from prohibited conduct, the policy has permitted them to serve honorably despite their sexual orientation. While keeping one’s sexual orientation secret may be too difficult for some members, those who refrain from self-reporting can achieve a successful military career—“Don’t Tell.” (Chad, 2004, p23)

There are many different choices in which Congress, George W., and the country deal with gays/lesbians without compromising what the Army, Air force, Navy, and Marines stand for. They stand for freedom of choice, and the country we protect with our lives for that freedom.

The principles of freedom and equality are those that every American holds closest to their hearts, which is unless you are in the military and are gay. Two persistent principles are evident within this topic: homosexuals are ever-present throughout all branches of the military and a persistent hostility against this group is in American society and the military. In order to effectively examine this topic the following concepts will be discussed: an analysis of the current Department of Defense policy concerning gays, solutions to reduce homophobia in the military, and a policy model concerning homosexuals in the military.

Homosexuals are paving the way into combat and like a top-secret agent they’re doing it undercover. With orders from the Commander in Chief to fellow service members to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” homosexuals are serving their country. Because of certain prejudiced ideologies against homosexuals, long-standing military regulations, and fear of persecution things were not changed until recently. Fear breeds ignorance, ignorance breeds racism, Semitism, and prejudice. Homosexuals in society have been shunned as being against the normal “family” model of husband and wife household. With homosexuals, the model would have two same-sex parents. Human nature dictates that any change no matter how small is a threat. Therefore, society has had long-standing concept that being with the same sex is a threat to their perfect world, and change was out of the question. (Johnson, 1992, 244-61)

Chat sums up the matter in following line:

“Whatever one thinks of “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy is federal law. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch is politically likely to push for change in the near future.135 But the threat of judicial repudiation of the military’s homosexuality policy has always been present. And though the policy has survived various legal challenges to its constitutionality, the policy has also suffered judicial setbacks, including some lower courts striking the policy down as unconstitutional. And the legal landscape continues to change, both within the military services’ own courts and at the highest federal levels.” (Chad, 2004, p20)

The previous regulation on homosexuality did not leave much leeway for gays in the military. Admittance would often end up with dishonorable discharges in lieu of non-judicial punishment. Therefore, President Clinton saw the need to change the regulation and signed into effect the controversial executive order on October 7 1999, thus forever changing the United States Military. Homosexuals have been harassed in the civilian sector, but nowhere like exists in the military community. With terms like “close combat, ranger buddy, and brothers in arms,” the military defines that people will bond and work closely together as a unit. Having such a tight group creates similarity (i.e., same haircut, same attire, etc). A homosexual in the group created a difference, being different was not acceptable in most units, thus the persecution and often expulsion from the military.

Once the executive order was signed, it helped to ease some of the harassment that gay service members were experiencing. This was by no means the end of discrimination within the military on homosexuals, but rather a starting point for hopeful abolishment. The areas of concern that contributed to the order being signed were prejudice ideology against homosexuals, long-standing military regulations, and fear of persecution. Chad et. al. is of the opinion “Some of the staunchest critics of the policy concede that “Don’t Ask” is a success. Since applicants are no longer questioned about their sexual orientation, homosexuals have joined the military without any entry barriers. ‘Don’t Tell’, however, has been greatly maligned.” (Chad, 2004, p8)

The military is far from colorblind in its implementation of the homosexual discharge policy. Although blacks are generally slightly less likely than whites to find themselves discharged for homosexuality, those blacks who are discharged for homosexuality are significantly less likely than their white counterparts to receive honorable discharges.

The military succeeds in “weeding out” only a small percentage of the lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who serve in this country’s armed forces. Because the military’s policy of exclusion requires lesbian and gay service members to conceal their sexual preference in order to avoid discharge, it is difficult to quantify with any precision their representation in the armed services. (Lilian, 1994, 113-16) However, one study indicates that gay men are as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to enter the military and that lesbians are significantly more likely to enlist than are heterosexual women. (Wolinsky, 1993, 87-90) Thus, the military’s own studies have concluded that approximately 10 percent of military service members are exclusively or predominantly homosexual in their adult sexual conduct and that as many as 46 percent of servicemen and more than 28 percent of servicewomen have engaged in “homosexual conduct” as defined by the military discharge regulations. (Randy, 1993, 43-47)

The military’s own studies have concluded that homosexuality has no relationship to the ability of an individual to perform military service and that there are no data to prove that lesbians and gay men pose any special security risk. The military’s policy seems to be rooted in the same kind of stereotypes and prejudice that led the armed forces for many years to exclude minorities and women from the military. (Kate, 1990, 78-82) Chad (2004) concludes the issue in these words: “When homosexual members can abstain from prohibited conduct, the policy has permitted them to serve honorably despite their sexual orientation. While keeping one’s sexual orientation secret may be too difficult for some members, those who refrain from self-reporting can achieve a successful military career.” (Chad, 2004, p23).


Chad C. Captain, Carter, Antony Barone Kolenc, 2004: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:” Has The Policy Met Its Goals? University Of Dayton Law Review [Vol.31:1] pg. 8& 23.

Human Rights Watch, 2003: Anti-gay Discrimination and Harassment in the U.S. Military: Article. Web.

Johnson, Chad S. “A Judicial Blow to the Military’s Anti-Gay Policies: Pruitt v. Cheney,” Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 27 (1992), 244-61.

Kate Dyer, ed., Gays in Uniform: The Pentagon’s Secret Reports, (Alyson, 1990). “Homosexuals in the Military: A Special Report,” New York Times, April 10, 1990. 78-82.

Lilian Faderman, Odd Girls & Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in 20th C America (Penguin, 1994) 113-16.

Online News Hour: 2000: Gays In The Military. Web.

Rand Research Brief: 2000: Web.

Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the US Military (St Martins, 1993) 43-47.

SLDN: Article. Web.

Williams, John Allen & Laura Miller and “Do Military Policies on Gender and Sexuality Undermine Combat Effectiveness?” in Soldiers and Civilians, ed. Peter Feaver and Richard Kohn (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 386-429.

Wolinsky & Sherrill, eds., Gays And the Military (Princeton UP, 1993) 87-90.

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