Americans Still Getting History on DADT Wrong

The US military community in Vicenza, Italy, recently attempted to host a “gay pride event” in which Stuart Milk, LGBT activist and nephew of Harvey Milk, was going to speak to DoD school children and the local community:

Stuart Milk will give three talks on [US Army post] Caserma Ederle — one at the high school for students who sign up, and one at the middle school, for eighth-graders whose parents will be advised in a letter that they may opt out. The third talk, open to the community, is…at the Hall of Heroes auditorium.

Just a few hours after the Stars and Stripes reported that event, however, it announced Milk’s visit had been canceled — without explanation:

The talks…were canceled by district superintendent Kent Worford, according to teachers and U.S. Army Africa officials…

A letter sent out to parents said the event was canceled but did not provide a reason.

As has been noted previously, some military units are continuing to “celebrate” homosexuality even absent a presidential proclamation to authorize the events.

More interesting than that, however, was the repetition of incorrect information about the history of homosexuality in the US military. Within the first article, Nancy Montgomery of the Stars and Stripes said [emphasis added]

It was illegal for gay and lesbian people to serve in the U.S. military until 1994, when the Clinton administration in a compromise instituted the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Gays and lesbians could serve, unless their sexual orientation was discovered; then they were discharged.

That is flatly wrong. A homosexual who was serving in the US military as late as 2011 — a full 17 years later — was still violating the law when they did so. Until 2011, the law clearly said:

10 U.S.C. § 654

“The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

US law — passed by Congress, signed by President Clinton — prohibited homosexuals from serving in the military, period. There was no “compromise” in the law. However, the Executive Branch of government — which enforces the law — noted the law written by the Legislative Branch did not require the military to proactively identify homosexuals for the purpose of discharging them.

Therefore, the Clinton Administration carefully chose how it was going to enforce the law banning homosexuals from serving in the military. In short, the Clinton DoD changed military policies to remove the question about sexuality from accession interviews, and it restricted troops from asking questions about sexuality. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was shorthand for how the military enforced the law; it was not the law itself.

From that point forward, if the military still somehow discovered a person’s homosexuality, that individual would be discharged — because they were violating the law. The military wouldn’t ask, and if the service member didn’t tell, no one would know homosexuals were violating the law by serving. But they were still violating the law.  That’s why repealing the ban on homosexual service in the military required Congress to repeal the law banning such service in 2010.

It’s worth noting that the law banning homosexuals from serving in the US military prior to 2011 remains historically valid. Lawsuits that were filed to declare it unconstitutional were essentially moot after the change in law — and those suits ended. The US military recognizes this standard when it reviews records regarding issues over DADT. For example, in allowing “discharge reviews” for those kicked out of the service over homosexuality, the US Army explicitly says [emphasis added]

Remedies such as correcting a record to reflect continued service with no discharge, restoration to a grade or position, credit for time lost, or an increase in pay from no separation pay to half or full separation pay or from half separation pay to full separation pay will not normally be appropriate corrections since these actions were taken under DADT law and regulations in effect at the time.

While the context of the Army’s statement is in reference to veterans and their records, it could have interesting implications for those homosexuals who were serving prior to 2011 — and who are still serving today.

People are free to have their own opinions on the military’s changing policies on sexuality, of course. But the facts remain the facts — and the Truth remains the Truth.