WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), along with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), led a resolution on Sept. 20 to recognize the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue,” also known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a policy that forced LGBQ servicemembers to conceal their sexual orientation to serve in the military. It was codified in the FY1994 National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Nov. 30, 1993.
Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” any member of the Armed Forces that was identified or identified themselves as non-heterosexual, either through actions or words, was subject to investigation and discharge. In the 18-year span that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” served as official policy, over 13,000 servicemembers were discharged.
After nearly two decades of activism and advocacy, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 was signed on Dec. 22, 2010, by President Barack Obama, and the repeal was certified to comply with Department of Defense recommendations and standards 60 days later, on Sept. 20, 2011.
While the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal allowed cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer individuals to serve openly without fear of discharge, transgender servicemembers were still barred from service until 2016.
“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a harmful policy that had damaging and lasting effects on thousands of servicemembers who wanted nothing more than to serve our country,” said Takano. “On the 10th anniversary of the enactment of its repeal, we celebrate this monumental step we have taken, but we also recognize that our fight for equality is not yet over.
“LGBQ servicemembers have not only experienced significant psychological impacts under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but they have also struggled accessing their VA benefits, gaining employment, or even re-enlisting in the military due to the unfair discharge status they received. It must be our utmost priority to fight back against the discrimination of any member of the LGBTQ+ community, and strive for an inclusive military, one in which the service of all members is honored regardless of who they are or who they love.”
“The United States has had a long history of injustices towards people in the LGBTQ+ community, including those who served in our nation’s military,” said Pocan. “It was a momentous occasion when Congress repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ten years ago thanks to the activism of so many. However, the fight continues, and we must ensure those who were discriminated against under DADT receive the benefits they earned and that all those who put on our nation’s uniform are able to do so as their true self.”
“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ a decade ago was a critical step forward to ensure equality for all members of our Armed Forces. But there is still more we must do to ensure that our Armed Forces are inclusive, accepting places for LGBTQ+ servicemembers and veterans,” said Pappas. “Discriminatory policies like DADT have caused lasting harm, and a double standard continues to persist for LGBTQ+ servicemembers and veterans who suffered from government-sponsored discriminatory policies simply because of who they are.
“As we commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the repeal of DADT and celebrate the freedom of LGBTQ+ servicemembers to serve openly following its repeal, we must rededicate ourselves to righting these wrongs and reaffirm our commitment to honoring the service of all those who put their lives on the line for our country, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”