Center for American Progress

Issue Pulse: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Issue Pulse: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

A wide range of politicians, military leaders, scientists, and clergy support repealing the military’s ban on service by openly gay men and women.

Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) famously proclaimed that, straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” (AP)" data-srcset=" 450w, 450w, 450w, 450w, 250w" data-sizes="auto" />
Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) famously proclaimed that, "You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” (AP)

The House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibits gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces, and the Senate will likely take up the bill this month. More than 13,000 gay and lesbian service men and women have been discharged from military service since 1993 under the policy, according to a CAP report, and statistics like these point toward the necessity of overturning this outdated, discriminatory, and counterproductive measure. Our troops are already spread thin in our operations around the world, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only ends up costing us valuable, dedicated service men and women.

On top of these facts, the public overwhelmingly supports a repeal of the ban, and they are not alone in this opinion. Politicians, military leaders and personnel, scientists and researchers, and religious leaders all resoundingly agree: The time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is now.


“I believe that we need to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve.”

President Barack Obama, Human Rights Campaign’s 2008 presidential questionnaire

“You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.

Former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater (R–AZ)


joe lieberman

“To exclude one group of Americans from serving in the armed forces is contrary to our fundamental principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and weakens our defenses by denying our military the service of a large group of Americans who can help our cause.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I–CT), February 22, 2010


“I saw soldiers get thrown out of the military not for any kind of misconduct, but for being gay, being who they are.”

Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D–PA), May 2010


Military leaders


adm. michael mullen

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 2, 2010


“I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”

Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, New York Times op-ed, January 2, 2007


Military personnel


victor fehrenbach

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ unjustly discharges well-trained, highly skilled, motivated and combat-seasoned veterans. Discharging dedicated people with critical combat skills—13,500 of them since the law was put in place—has cost billions. Their skills are lost, the money spent training and preparing them is wasted, and the costs are high to train their replacements. In this way, the law makes us less safe. So I have questions for McCain and Boehner. How is the law ‘working’ for me? How is it ‘successful’ for our country? Why is it not the right time? When is the right time? Never?”

Former Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who has given 18 years of service in the United States Air Force and is currently pending discharge, Dayton Daily News op-ed, February 11, 2010


“I realized that I had fought and nearly died to secure rights for others that I myself was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me.”

Eric Alva, July 23, 2008. Alva is an openly gay Marine staff sergeant who was the first American soldier to be wounded in the Iraq war.

Scientists and researchers

“Research has uniformly shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness. No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military.”

Dr. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow and adjunct professor at New York University

“The research data show that there is nothing about lesbians and gay men that makes them inherently unfit for military service, and there is nothing about heterosexuals that makes them inherently unable to work and live with gay people in close quarters.”

Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D., professor of psychology, University of California-Davis, May 1993


Religious leaders


rabbi shmuley boteach

“Every person has a right to serve his country, gays included. All have a right to serve their country openly without hiding who they are. It’s kind of odd that so many heterosexuals who are not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice, refusing to enlist in the military and preferring instead to live as armchair warriors, are condemning those with a patriotic passion to fight for freedom.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, June 2, 2010


“I wholeheartedly agree with [Archbishop for the Military Services USA Timothy Broglio] that ‘no restrictions or limitations on the teaching of Catholic morality can be accepted. First Amendment rights regarding the free exercise of religion must be respected.’ I would fight to the death for those protections. Fortunately, no such restrictions or limitations would be required after ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is repealed. Period. To suggest otherwise indicates either ignorance of the proposed legislation or a disingenuousness that is not befitting a clergyman.”

Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay clergyman and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, June 10, 2010

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