Dont Ask Dont Tell

Since the “Dont Ask, Dont Tell” policy went into effect on February
28, 1994, the situation has not improved for gays in the military. By
some accounts, the rate of discharge of servicemembers based on
homosexuality has remained steady at about 0.04 percent of total
military personnel. Others argue that this figure has actually risen
overall since the implementation of the new policy. For example,
discharges from the Air Force for homosexuality increased in the
period of 1992 to 1994 from 111 to 180 dismissals.
According to President Clintons July 19, 1993, announcement
of what he called the “Dont Ask, Dont Tell, Dont Pursue” policy,
servicemembers were to now be judged based on their conduct, rather
than their sexual orientation. Questions about sexual orientation were
to be removed from written forms, such as those needed for enlistment
procedures. Servicemembers were even supposed to be allowed to say
that they were homosexual, if they could prove that they would not
engage in prohibited conduct. Under the Uniform Code of Military
Justice, prohibited conduct includes sodomy, which is defined as
“unnatural” sexual acts.
The policy, in and of itself, is problematic in that lesbian
and gay servicemembers are expected to either lie about their sexual
orientation or lie about their desire to actually sleep with someone
of the same sex. The policy can be can and has been interpreted differently by different people. Under the terms of “Dont Ask, Dont Tell,” lesbians and gays could theoretically join the military — as long as they took a vow of celibacy. Given the notorious sexual habits of US military personnel, it is jarringly inconsistent that the military would be so prudish about the sex lives of certain soldiers.
However, this is not the way the policy has actually been
carried out under the auspices of the Department of Defense. Memos
drafted in June and November of 1994 by the Navy and the Air Force
indicate that the military probably never intended to follow the
“Dont Ask, Dont Tell” policy. Officials in these memos explicitly
direct commanders to disobey the policy by continuing the practices of
open-ended witch-hunts of suspected homosexual soldiers, questioning
the “parents, siblings, and close friends” of suspected individuals,
and invasive snooping into the private lives of servicemembers. This
directive has probably exacerbated the problem of homophobia in the
military, by allowing commanding officers to feel smug in the
knowledge that they have the approval of their superiors in
intentionally flouting the new policy. Below are a few incidents that
have occurred since the new policy was implemented:

In Florida, a recruiter asked one recruit five times if she was
homosexual, both verbally and on outdated written forms. To a sailor,
a chief-of-boat demanded, “Youre not going to tell me youre a
fucking faggot, are you” A security clearance investigator in
Washington, DC told a servicemember, “Im not going to ask you if
youre homosexual, but if I did ask, how would you respond” Although
a Marine based in Okinawa, Japan was never formally charged with being
in a homosexual ring, he was stripped of his security clearance and
transferred to another base because of such accusations. To
investigate the sexual orientation of an Air Force doctor, an official
called his mother for information about her son. Investigators asked
25 individual soldiers in North Carolina to speculate about the
sexuality of a fellow Marine. A sailor pilfered the personal desk of
his roommate and turned in the private letters that he found. His
roommate was subsequently discharged for being a homosexual. During
private counseling sessions with a Naval psychologist, a South
Carolina corporal asked questions about homosexuality and questioned
his own sexual feelings. Consequently, the psychologist turned the
corporal over for court martial.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the only
group monitoring the militarys success in implementing “Dont Ask,
Dont Tell” recorded 340 separate violations of the policy in its
first year. As with before the new policy began, those servicemembers
suspected of being lesbian or gay are usually harassed and often
receive death threats. These victims generally do not turn to their
commanding officers for protection, because they fear getting
discharged. Lesbians are picked out for dismissal at a
disproportionate rate, compared to their actual population in the
armed services, representing 25% of all cases handled by SLDN. And
most significantly, as if to demonstrate their commitment to “Dont
Ask, Dont Tell,” the Pentagon has not disciplined even one official
who has flouted the policy.