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Defense directives in the U.S. government began discriminating against LGB service members in 1950 under President Truman. For the past 61 years, LGB members of the military have been banned from serving their country simply because of their sexual orientation. One law in particular, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issued in 1993 by President Clinton, is responsible for the discharge of over 14,500 service members.

"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed on September 20th, 2011; LGB service members will no longer be discharged because of their sexual orientation.

However, this policy does not address the issues facing transgender service members, or those who wish to enlist. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only addresses lesbians, gays, and bisexuals; the repeal also only includes these groups. PFLAG is dedicated to helping end discrimination for all service members, and works together with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to bring an end to full LGBT discrimination in our military.

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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal - The Facts

Previous Legislation: The Military Readiness Enhancement Act

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) introduced The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 (S. 3065) on March 3, 2010 as a way to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. However, this bill failed to advance.

Current Legislation: The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

Introduced as H.R. 2965 and sponsored by Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA), this bill repeals the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. This bill was signed by President Obama into law on July 21, 2011 and accepted by the Pentagon on July 22, 2011.

Key Points:

  • There is a 60 day period of preparation in which DADT is still in effect. September 20th, 2011 marks the end of this period. After this, LGB service members will be free to serve openly in the military.
  • The bill does not contain a non-discrimination policy for LGB members in the military.
  • The bill does not grant spousal benefits or marriage recognition for LGB members and their partners. This is due to the Defense of Marriage Act which does not allow for same-sex marriages to be federally recognized.
  • Transgender service members are not included in this bill. PFLAG National supports the work of our community partners to encourage the Department of Defense to eliminate transgender status and gender identity disorder diagnosis as automatic disqualifications from military service and ensure that medical fitness standards treat transgender service members equally with all other service members. For more information, please see: How does DADT affect Transgender service members?

Marriage in the Military

The Pentagon has decided that military chaplains are allowed to preside over same-sex unions if the state allows it, whether or not the ceremony is done on military grounds. Defense Department property is allowed to be used for private functions which include same-sex unions (as long as local or state law doesn’t prohibit it). Though some Congress members protested on the grounds that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still in effect, marriages presided over by military chaplains would not be federally recognized. The chaplains will not be required to perform same-sex ceremonies.

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