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Formalizing the Ban: My Experience in the Reagan Administration

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The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is a success story. As of September 20, 2011, one of the most egregious cases of modern day government-sanctioned discrimination has been overturned. But my (Lawrence Korb) involvement with military policy toward gays and lesbians began early in our country’s journey toward open service—18 years before the creation of DADT and 30 years before the Obama Administration successfully opened the armed forces to gay and lesbian service members. In 1981, I joined the Pentagon shortly after the Carter administration announced a new Pentagon policy stating that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” As Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations, and Logistics, the responsibility of writing the directive to implement this ban fell to my office. In this article, I detail my recollections from this period in American military history: the codification of the gay ban in U.S. Department of Defense policy.

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This article was originally published in Journal of Homosexuality.

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