Center for American Progress

In the Wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal, the Defense Department Should Adopt a Broader Code of Social Conduct
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In the Wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal, the Defense Department Should Adopt a Broader Code of Social Conduct

Setting fair expectations for behavior with the singular goal of maintaining an effective fighting force is the best answer to general concerns about conduct in a post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military.

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Neither Canada, nor Israel, nor the United Kingdom instituted separate rules of conduct for heterosexual and homosexual service members after they overturned their bans. And none have encountered significant issues in enforcing good conduct in the aftermath of their decisions. The United States should adopt a similarly undifferentiated policy once “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed to transition to a force where conduct issues are treated equitably regardless of the sexual orientation of the service members involved.

As a first step, the outdated prohibition on sodomy in the Uniform Code of Military Justice must be repealed. The Palm Center recommends that this provision be replaced by “a ban in the Manual for Courts-Martial on all sexual acts that are prejudicial to good order and discipline.” Congress should amend the uniform code at the same time that it repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Defense Department should also adopt a broader code of social conduct just like the British in the wake of their repeal. Setting fair expectations for behavior with the singular goal of  maintaining an effective fighting force is the best answer to general concerns about conduct in a post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military. This path will provide a fair standard to identify serious  situations of improper conduct that may not be specifically covered by existing regulations and dismiss ungrounded accusations, no matter the gender or sexual orientation of the parties.

In other words, it will allow the military to remain focused on its primary mission as the guardian of U.S. national security without forcing it to repeatedly rehash debates about the moral or ethical implications of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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