Alex Blaze

DADT enforcement changes announced

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 25, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, LGBT, queer, robert gates

Sec. of Defense Robert Gates announced a few changes in DADT enforcement that would make discharging someone from the military for being LGB harder.

While some LGBT bloggers are scoffing at the changes, any attempt to reduce the number of DADT discharges should be welcome by anyone actually seeking to improve the circumstances under which LGB servicemembers work. It's unnerving to see people talk as if these policy changes do nothing at all, as if the fact that fewer people will have their careers ruined is meaningless (which makes me wonder why they care so much about DADT repeal in the first place). No one's saying that the government should stop here - there's just a difference between saying "this is inadequate but positive" and "this is too little to count."

Making the perfect - and full DADT repeal by itself isn't the perfect solution, either - the enemy of the good is a luxury of people who aren't directly affected by this policy, but who are still emotionally invested in seeing it repealed. It makes it seem like they consider removing DADT as a symbol of exclusion and inferiority is more important to them than actually improving the lives of LGB servicemembers, which requires a certain level of frivolousness.

Is the goal "equality" in some abstract sense of the term, in that we can turn on the TV and see that people think we're the same as everyone else, or is the goal to materially improve LGBT people's lives? That's not just a question for DADT, but for our movement as a whole.

Anyway, here are some of the reforms Gates proposed:

The most significant change to the policy will raise the level of the officer who is authorized to initiate an inquiry or separation proceeding regarding the DADT policy to a general or flag officer in the servicemember's chain of command.[...]

What constitutes ''credible information'' to initiate separation proceedings under DADT. Specifically, the revised policy requires a ''reliable person'' to provide the information that he or she is presenting to the military under oath. Previously, that information did not need to be made under oath.

Certain types of confidential information cannot be used for purposes of DADT discharge proceedings, including lawyer-client privilege, communications to clergy, psychotherapist-patient privilege, information provided by a servicemember to a medical professional, or information provided in the course of seeking professional assistance for domestic or physical abuse.

This moves these discharges significantly up the military ladder, and, in the US's largest bureaucracy, that could mean that a lot of these charges just die as they're put in the hands of folks who have serious careers to protect and lots of other work on their plate to get to.

Also, the goal is to reduce third party outings, which would also mean that there'd be fewer discharges. People will have to go under oath to out another servicemember? That would put some scrutiny on people making accusations instead of all the scrutiny being on the LGB person, meaning that outing someone else would no longer be risk-free.

At the press conference the Pentagon's general counsel was asked about what happens in situations where invalid evidence leads to valid evidence, to which he responded: "That's a good question and we'll have to work that through."

Gates and Mullen discuss the suspiciously year-long study they need to finish before DADT can be repealed in this video (suspicious because it was started about a year before midterms and can't be sped up), but at least they're saying that the study is about how to repeal DADT, not whether it should be repealed or not:

Joe Sudbay says Kerry Eleveld asked that same question:

Later, in response to a question from Kerry Eleveld as to whether the study is looking at whether to implement repeal or how to implement it, Gates did say "the study is about how you would implement it...the study is not about should we do it. The study is about how would we do it." That's helpful because GOPers on the Hill have spun this study into a "whether" DADT should be repealed, which is not the case.

Update: The White House sends along this statement:

"Today's announcement follows the powerful testimony by Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen in February. The President has been clear in his call for Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He appreciates the hard work by Secretary Gates to make the implementation of the current law fairer and more appropriate, as well as the broader efforts to prepare for implementation of any Congressional repeal. He is grateful to the Secretary, Chairman Mullen and the Service Chiefs for their leadership in developing and swiftly implementing the revised regulations announced today. "

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Angela Brightfeather | March 25, 2010 2:27 PM

I am very happy to hear abut htese changes, especially as the National VP of TAVA, I have been most concerned recently with active duty people not being able to talk to their psychotherapists about the impact of being Transgender on their PTSD condition and the serious implications that could lead to deep depression and resulting suicides.

In the past, when outing themselves to service related psychotherapy within the service, Trans persons hav been outed and discharged under the provisions of DADT. Thes new standards will allow them to note being Transgender and include it in their treatment for PTSD, verifying the impact it may have had on them while serving in action.

AS I have noted before, there are many who wold like to see DADT disappear tomorrow. But being former military myself, I understand that there have been things happen like DOMA since DADT, that need to be addressed that will affect the immediate rejection of DADT. The fact that military reservations exist within states that allow SSM now, makes it harder to determine what might happen legally if a SSM couple, legally married in that state wish to apply for on base, married housing benefits and VA hospital benefits. Ensuing VA policy changes and standard regualtions governing married couples living on base need to be revised, legislated or clarified before DADT can be a thing of the past. All that takes some time and work. In fact, I'm surprised that they are sayig they can do it one year, after it has taken the Administration over a year just to close down Guantanamo, which is just one base with a handfull of prisoners compared to every US military reservation and hundreds of thousands of people affected by doing away with DADT.

Don't get me wrong here. I fully support the doing away with DADT and consider it discriminatory and unfair to all GLBT people. But I also realize that since that policy has been around for some time now, a sturcture of policies ahs been built around it that need to be dismantled and that takes time to do correctly.

The passing of and inclusive ENDA would only help to facilitate the the end of DADT that much faster. Which is why I still don't understand why all the rhetoric about DADT never includes even the mention of getting ENDA passed.

WOULD that it were true, but what makes you think Gates' announcement re chaplains, doctors, et al., below will help protect trans servicemembers except in cases where their nonconforming gender identity is being wrongly characterized as "being gay"? I interpret it, unfortunately, as applying soley to those they think are gay, and anyone else is still subject to the potential lack of ethics of any military "professional."

"...certain categories of confidential information will no longer be used in support of discharges, including:

•Information provided to lawyers, clergy, and psychotherapists;
•Information provided to a medical professional in furtherance of medical treatment or a public-health official in the course of a public-health inquiry;
•Information provided in the course of seeking professional assistance for domestic or physical abuse...."

The subject of the policy changes was solely DADT separations not separations generally, so I urge every trans servicemember to continue to be extremely cautious until and if the DoD explicitly confirms that they apply to ALL instances of "confidential discussion."

I have to say, Alex, that you'd have been one of the last people I would have expected to accept a priori the smoke and mirrors act of a Secretary of Defense. You say "potato," er "reduce discharges," I say "reduce protests of their slow walk to the death of repeal."

Before I deconstruct further, however, it's important to remind/inform your readers of the history of this, and the resulting credibility gap.

The first time the "humane" balloon was floated was last July 1st, curiously some might say immediately after the White House Stonewall celebration suddenly appeared on the President's calendar, albeit the day after the Stonewall anniversary itself. Who am I to suggest that both were entirely the result of the fact that high profile gay donors and bloggers had boycotted a DNC LGBT event two weeks before.

Yet, just a few weeks later, Gates was insisting that Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson had told him he had no such legal options...despite the fact that two months before a Palm Center report had spelled them out, and even a 12-yr. old with a dial-up connection to Google could find them.

Then, suddenly, Feb. 2nd, curiously just 9 months before midterms, Gates, who has defended DADT for years, suddenly claims to have had a personal religious conversion and, lo and behold, sent Brother Johnson once more into the legal wilderness from which he was to find a new answer to the question he's already allegedy answered and report back in 45 days. Even before, MSM was predicting that the results would include a ban on third-party outings.

In the interim, Johnson, also co-chair of the multi month "Study," testified to a House Armed Services Committee suggesting that, yes, the sky may, in fact, fall if Congress should repeal DADT before the results of The Study.

Which brings us to today. Curious, n'est-ce pas, that Johnson would claim to still not have considered such an important question as the consequences of invalid information leading to truth? Trust me, kids, Uncle Jeh is not our friend.

Barring any contradiction in his own statement I've yet to see, here's the important truth behind Gates' smoke and you know what:

1. Third party outings are NOT now banned, despite some media still reporting that they are. He simply said that higher levels of officers would now consider such information and outers would need to testify under oath. Such information can STILL be used to discharge people no matter how long it spins in the DADT cycle. [A typical discharge investigation already takes six months.]

The "grudge" outers are THE MOST LIKELY to be willing to testify. The people who outed both Victor Fehrenbach and Margie Witt would no doubt have been willing to do that, and probably Servicemembers United founder Alex Nicholson, too.

Whatever their outers' motivation, it was TRUE that they ARE gay and gays ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SERVE so they would STILL be discharged!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Gates cooed, "These changes are meant to provide a greater measure of common sense and common decency"??? TO DADT? That's like saying a wife beater will only continue to beat his wife using "common sense and common decency." A nonsensical and indecent policy can only be righted by eliminating it ENTIRELY and IMMEDIATELY.

3. And they want to spend MORE tax dollars for essentially a RETRIAL of the cases of anyone not yet fully discharged who choose to go through that ordeal????? Where's the "common sense" in that? And Margie Witt wouldn't benefit anyway as she's already been discharged.

Further, Gates announced no "new policies" in relation to the 9th Circuit's ruling in Witt's case which he PROMISED the Senate would also be announced in 45 days [nearly A YEAR after they should have been].

4. The branches have 30 days to conform regulations BUT the "changes" will take effect immediately? THEN why not stop discharges immediately upon repeal and then change the regs on paper instead of insisting that you would need "at least a year" while no other country took more than four months?

5. Protection from information given to lawyers and security clearance investigators were ALREADY covered. He's padding. HOWEVER, the ONE good thing that was announced today is that chaplains [frequent violators of trust], doctors, et al., would be expected to keep the servicemember's confidence.

6. Showing his true colors, Gates didn’t really raise the bar on discharges, but he’s raised the bar AGAIN on “permission” from hoi polloi to repeal. On Feb. 2nd, they suddenly claimed that, in addition to straight servicemembers, they had to consult their "families" about the alleged “impact” of repeal. NOW he's added "influencers," too. WHAT the hell does that mean? Who's next? Their high school football coach? Their Boy Scout leader? The girl they took to the prom?

Our latest phony Friend of the Gays ADM. Mullen clicked his boot heels together and added that they must get "information from those it will affect most.” Attention, Sir! That would be GAY SERVICEMEMBERS and their partners!!!!!!!!!!

7. Once again, they warn of “difficult and complex issues” WITHOUT documenting what those are.

“Those who take the point of view that there must be a long period of transition are simply setting up a straw man to hide their real agenda, which is to maintain the current ban. Given these arguments, it is critical that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell not be perceived as a complicated puzzle requiring complex solutions to minor problems. Substantial research finds that transitioning to an inclusive policy would be significantly less difficult than proponents of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell claim.” – The Center for American Progress.

One supports the saving of any servicemember by any means, but this is really nothing but a stunt to further narcotize people into believing they actually want repeal to happen when all they really want is to run out the clock until the chance for repeal is dead!

Drowning out the silence from the White House is tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick......

I'm not much concerned with the sincerity of the actions, more just the results of the actions. So, while timeline isn't perfect, I'm doubting that this has much to do with the gays bringing the white house to its knees by semi-boycotting one event in New York last year. I think it's more about giving a little bit but promising more after the next round of elections to keep turn-out from dropping too low.


1. I don't know if they'd be willing to testify. I'm sure time will tell, but lots of people actually don't like to go under oath and be scrutinized for what they know about someone else's sexuality.

While some people would do that, the word here was "reduce." I'm guessing fewer people would.

2. Yes, getting rid of DADT entirely would be better. Getting rid of DADT and allowing troops to transition while serving would be even better. Getting rid of DADT, allowing trans troops, and banning harassment of LGBT troops would be even better. Getting rid of DADT, allowing trans troops, banning harassment of LGBT troops, and ending the wars would be even better.

At some point there are net positives. I don't see how this is a net negative.

3. I don't think anyone has been talking about reinstating people who have been discharged already.

4. Because they need an excuse to push this beyond the midterms.

5. That's another net positive (yeah, I didn't get the lawyer thing either... how are these people being represented now?). A friend of mine always goes to the chaplain instead of a therapist when he has a problem on base since no one gets told about that visit.

6. I think he was clear that the research isn't about whether to repeal DADT, but how. And they throw in families and whatever, but I'm sure it's mostly to make it seem like they're doing something for this year instead of just stalling.

7. Yep, stalling, although I don't think that'll make it impossible. We already knew that DADT repeal wasn't going to happen this year (I remember people saying that back in 2008), so some improvement in the interim will still help some people.

I whole heartedly second Angela’s thoughts on the change where a person can now talk to a therapist openly is MUCH NEEDED! I’ve had so many instances where a coworker couldn’t talk about past abuse issues because it was same sex or Transgender service members who desperately need to talk to someone about their gender issues and the only thing I can say is to expect discharge if they talk to a military therapist/clergy. I’m ecstatic about that one measure. That alone will save lives.

But, I’m not happy about this part.

“This moves these discharges significantly up the military ladder, and, in the US’s largest bureaucracy, that could mean that a lot of these charges just die as they’re put in the hands of the folks who have serious careers to protect [1]and lots of other work on their plates to get to [2]”

Q:What’s a “Flag Rank”? [I know everyone is wondering]

Flag rank in the Navy starts at O-6, but a O-5 can be made an acting Flag due to the billet(job) assigned or ‘because’[3]. ‘Flag Rank’ refers to a service specific flag that’s to be flown designating the rank of the person that is flown by the vessel carrying or base which has a Flag Officer is at.

So, where do you find a ‘Flag Rank’?

Navy Aircraft squadrons belong to Wings.
The Squadron’s are commanded by senior O-4’s and junior O-5’s.
The Wings are commanded by senior O-5’s and junior O-6’s and is a ‘Flag Rank’ position.
Navy ships are commanded by senior O-4’s and junior O-5’s, but capital ships [aircraft carrier, ballistic missile submarine] can be commanded by senior O-5’s and junior O-6’s. Capital ships are always Flag Rank positions.
Ships are in Squadrons [senior O-5’s and junior O-6’s] and Fleets [O-6/7]. Those are ‘Flag Rank’ positions.
Large Bases are Flag rank, small bases can be run by an O-3.

[1]Uhh… the Flags? Sorry, but you can’t touch a O-5 and above. Just look at General Sheehan. He sat in front of Congress and violated Art. 107 of the UCMJ ‘Making False Official Statements’ that has led to one of our NATO Allies commenting on it and it is considered to be Dishonorable to cast dispersions upon a fellow Allied Force. See anyone saying anything about that but me? Because I don’t. And yes, a retired member of the military who draws a retirement check is subject to the UCMJ.

Commanding Officers in the military think they’re God Almighty.
Flags ARE GOD ALMIGHTY! …ok, at least they think they are.

[2] So, this fixes everything right? Flags are busy with their day to day business. Most tasks that they handle have numerous steps. Those numerous steps are taken care of prior to presenting to the Flag by 0-3’s for the most part. Since this entire thing as presented is rather open… Most likely you’ll see the Flags directing the Commanding Officers to follow the current standard steps for minor infractions to fact gather and send the results up thru the chain of command where an O-3 (probably in the Legal Officer position) will make ‘recommendations’ to the Flag and say “sign here”.

…for those of you who were not in the military in the 90’s this was already kinda done before. Prior to 1995 Commanding Officers had the right to discharge anyone under their command and append any discharge that they wished to the discharge papers.
The prior policy was to enforce good order and discipline within the ranks. This was shortly after DADT was enacted and the CO’s were discharging a lot of people (ok, way too many) for being Gay, Lesbian…Black. Yeah, the CO’s misused the right and a few of the commands I was in experienced up to 20% discharge at the CO’s request because of the CO having ‘issues’ (sorry, but the guy was a card carrying bigot and hated EVERYONE. He was removed because of his rate of discharges was out stripping the supply of available people.)

Um… yeah, this is a sea change. Its going from a Captains Mast issue to an Admirals Mast issue. I doubt you’ll ever see anyone walk away from one of these Admiral Masts cleanly. I really want to hear someone who goes thru this process now. Because up to now, if you went to an Admirals Mast it was followed by a Courts Marshal.

Honestly, that provision is a ‘push’ to me.

[3] ‘because’ the old man up and died is a sad reality. Flags have a high stress job in a high stress industry. Yes, Flags can live to a ripe old age. But I’ve had it happen several times where our Flag Officer simply had a major heart attack and dropped dead on the spot. Once in the middle of a speech. The Flag was giving a speech during a change of command on a day when it was 107f.
During those instances a person can go from O-4 to O-5 in a day to fill a Flag position and then pick up O-6 in just a few months when no one else is willing to step up and take the job. That CO was one of the coolest CO’s I ever had.

"Flag Rank," or "Flag Officers" are one star generals and admirals, and above. The term comes from the flag flown on the general or admiral's car when they are being driven around. You have to be a one-star or above to get those cute little flags on the front of your car.

Like Angela, I am thrilled to see the last paragraph in what Gates proposed. If a pastor or doctor found out a person was gay or trans, they were required to tell the command. Now, they don't have violate doctor/patient or minister/parishioner confidentiality. It takes a major worry off of people's minds.

For those people who think nothing would change for trans people in the military, this is a good start.

As noted above, I see no reason to believe these new rules of confidentiality apply to trans servicemembers as the announcement was built entirely around issues related to DADT and, technically, trans servicemembers, as you know, are not supposed to be discharged under it.

I WISH these announcements did apply, but until we have evidence they do, I urge trans servicemembers to assume there has been no change.

Transcript of Gates' statement:

If the military was smart enough to separate being gay from being trans, then your assumption would be correct. But, since straight and asexual trans people have been kicked out under DADT, then reality says different. If a heterosexual man wants to wear woman's clothes occasionally, the military says he's gay.

We have to look at it through the eyes of the uneducated military. If DADT has been used to harass and kick out trans people, then this change in enforcement will also apply to trans people, by default.

Michael @ | March 25, 2010 8:46 PM

1. Help some people? Maybe. Hooray if Yes. But "motivation" IS important because it goes, as they say, to "credibility" of everything else they're saying.

2. The boycotted meeting was in DC not New York and it was a HUGE deal, as covered on Bilerico and everywhere else including MSM. It was the first crack in the force field around the Messiah for The Gays and clearly DID scare them, thank you, that the GAYTM might close on them.

The sudden White House Tea for the LGBTs and Gates first spin of the phony humane wheel was unquestionably the direct attempt at damage control result, just as was Obama's agreeing to speak at the HRC dinner just days before it when they realized the NEM was going to be much bigger than previously expected.

3. Lawyers? Along with their own laws [the Uniform Code of Military Justice], the military has its own set of military legal counsel under the huge Judge Advocate General's department [hence the old TV show "JAG"] to "defend" a servicemember if he/she violates some regulation [DADT is not under the UCMJ but "sodomy"...tho rarely uniquely charged]. A servicemember undergoing a DADT hearing can usually also be represented by civilian counsel.

4. Actually, MANY people have been talking about reinstating people who have been discharged, going all the way back to Candidate Obama in his lengthy statement on what he would do if elected:

" As president, ... I will direct my Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to develop procedures for taking re-accession requests from
those qualified service members who were separated from the armed forces under Don’t Ask,
Don’t Tell and still want to serve their country."

5. "I think he was clear that the research isn't about whether to repeal DADT, but how." What they're CLAIMING is "clear" and nothing more [again, see "credibility"] The "research" isn't about how to repeal DADT but how to stall repeal of don't ask tell. They're simply lying through their teeth when they claim no research has been done, so one must ask why they are.


5. The only people saying DADT repeal will still be possible next year are the Obambots and I was under the impression you weren't one of those. Repeal is already being held up in the House by Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton and, so far, by the cowards in the Senate. If the Dems lose control there, John McShame will take over the Senate Armed Services Committee and repeal will never make it out.

ADDENDUM: Pentagon "expert," ABC News reporter Martha Raddich is just falsely reporting on the evening news that discharges from third-party outings are now universally banned.

St. Judy of Garland preserve us!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 25, 2010 11:20 PM

DADT can't be 'reformed' any more than DOMA, the other half of Clinton's deadly legacy of bigotry.
Both need to be repealed to end the clear and present danger and discrimination they pose for LGBT folks in and out of the military.

The question is: will Democrats repeal either?

They might repeal DADT if they need cannon fodder to continue and expand the four wars they're now engaged in. But we have to keep in mind that much of the officer corps is laced with poisonous christer bigots who'll oppose it tooth and nail.

Their puppet troops in Iraq seem more concerned with rounding up GLBT folks than taking on the insurgents or protecting the rights of American oil barons or merchants of death. These American led and armed puppet jihadist cops and militia have made Iraq the most dangerous place in the world for LGBT folks.

The questions surrounding our movement's attitude towards DADT dovetail with larger issues of the role of the US military as the force used to steal oil and other resources.

We should support repeal of DADT because Clinton's law targets LGBT folks for discrimination, mistreatment and violence.

To protect the lives of all US military forces in the region we should join in fighting for their total, immediate and permanent withdrawal.