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Explainer: What Actually Changes After the End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On September 20, 2011, the Department of Defense put out a memo announcing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. That repeal officially went into effect at 12:01 am Tuesday, marking the end of the 19-year-old policy.

President Obama signed legislation to end the policy back in December. The repeal took effect 60 days later, in order to give the military time to implement the repeal "in a manner that is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces," according to the D.O.D.

What Changes?

  • Statements about sexual orientation will no longer be a bar to enlisting in the military or cause for dismissal.
  • Service members who were discharged under the policy are able to reapply to return to military service. More than 14,000 service members were discharged under D.A.D.T since the policy went into effect in 1993, according the Service Members United.
  • The military says it has ceased all pending investigations, discharges and administrative proceedings that exist solely under the umbrella of D.A.D.T.

What Stays the Same?

  • Service members will not be required to share information about their sexual orientation.
  • Policies for duty assignments will stay the same.
  • Commanders are prohibited from creating separate bathroom facilities or living quarters based on sexual orientation.
  • Service members will continue to designate beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, for certain benefits, such as life insurance and a death gratuity. However, the Defense of Marriage Act will continue to prohibit same-sex couples from receiving certain benefits that are available to heterosexual couples, such as health care and housing allowances.
  • Sexual orientation will not be considered along with race, color, religion, sex and national origin as a class under the Military Equal Opportunity program. The military says it will not tolerate harassment or abuse because of sexual orientation.

But What Really Changes?
Basic life things will change, in the way that someone's personal life may occasionally overlap with a professional life, said Sue Fulton, communications director for Outserve, the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel. For example, gay and lesbian service members will be able to bring a spouse to a work event and put family photos on their desks.

Fulton also points out that any future fight for LGBT rights within the military can now come from active-duty service members.

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