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Repealing DADT - This is How it Works

April 21, 2011 | Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Grimes

Yesterday we finally got our Tier II training about the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  I've been wating for this for a while and have been anxious to keep our DADT conversation going.  First, to be clear, the repeal has not been implemented and repeal will not become effective until 60 days after the President/SECDEF/CJCS certifies that the military is ready to do so.  So, right now, we're all being taught what is expected to happen.  The bottom line: not much will change.

When the repeal of DADT becomes effective, gay and lesbian Soldiers will no longer have to avoid disclosure of their sexual orientation.  The Army will not be soliciting sexual orientation information from anyone; sexual orientation will simply become a non-issue.  Some implications of repeal will be easy to sort out, others will be much thornier.  Some of the easy issues are application of sexual harrassment policies and Soldiers' rights to their own moral and religious beliefs.  Policies preventing/punishing sexual harassment will have equal application to both sexes, regardless of the sex of the offender.  And no expectation will be created that Soldiers change their personal moral or religious beliefs about whether homosexuality is good/bad/sinful/etc.  (This will, of course, be trickier issue for our service chaplain, but I'll touch on that below.)  There will be no segregation of facilities - barracks, showers, etc. - on the basis of sexual orientation, but commanders will retain their current authority to handle case-by-case issues of roommate incompatibility in the barracks.  (At the end of the day, though, Soldiers will not be entitled to changing roommates just because one is homosexual.)

The Defense of Marriage Act still precludes the federal recognition of same-sex marriages, which means that same-sex partners will not be entitled to many of the benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex married partners.  These include ID cards (and access to bases/installations, commissaries, etc.), health care, and (in some places) on-post housing.  They will be entitled to many other services, like those provided by Family Advocacy and Army Community Services.  In short, same-sex partners will be treated the same way we treat a Soldier's fiance.  For those worried that repeal of DADT would grant same-sex couples parity with traditional married couples, there's no need to worry.  For those waiting for fully equal rights and benefits, the wait continues.

Army chaplains are the most visible representatives of our Soldiers with strong moral and religious objections to repeal of DADT.  Like the rest of the Army, they will be expected to do what they've signed up to do: minister to Soldiers.  While they will not be expected to censure their sermons and homilies; if they are inclined to preach that homosexuality is a sin, they may continue to do so.  Their obligation to 'preach' to Soldiers, however, will not include such moral judgements in the unit motorpools, offices, and training sites (which is no change from current standards).  Chaplains will not be expected to operate beyond the bounds of their faith, but they will be expected to provide whatever support they can for all Soldiers, regardless of sexual orientation.  In some circumstances, this will mean directing a gay Soldier to another chaplain who might not hold the same convictions.

While service chaplains will have to sort out how they adjust to the repeal of DADT, unit commanders will have thorny issues of their own to sort out.  These will likely be local policy decisions that might have unequal application, not out of design but merely by coincidence.  One example is barracks visitation policies.  Most commanders have imposed limits on the hours that Soldiers in the barracks can have opposite-sex visitors.  Such policies might create opportunities for gay and lesbian Soldiers to extend their visits in ways that heterosexual Soldiers cannot.  For the Army (and the other services) issues and policies relating to housing, rights to health care and other benefits, joint-assignments, and overseas command-sponsorship of families will be issues that will have significant impacts on gay and lesbian Soldiers and may need adjusting.

These are just the highlights, as I remember them.  All comments and representations are my own and are not official.  But, if you have specific questions, I'll try to get you the best answers.  I've said before that I think the repeal of DADT is long overdue, but I know that others don't feel the same.  Keep the comments focused on the issues, and let's talk about whether this moves us forward and how to do it right.


4 Comments

  • Tim Reidy
    4/24/2011 12:22 AM
    Please explain how general order one in Afghanistan or Iraq one can be altered to accomodate openly homosexual members. Right now a woman can not enter a male's room to watch a movie, yet openly homosexual servicemembers have no restrictions whatsoever (in fact this could already be a problem at places like Camp Eggers in Kabul where coalition members that allow openly homosexual members to serve already share housing with US forces...). If you can explain to me how to make a consistent policy and I will come on board with the policy repeal, otherwise, no matter how rosy the hopes, this will only lead to inconsistant policies that harm good order and discipline. DADT policy was overwhelmingly hailed by those who don't have to deal with ship board living or places like Eggers, but it seems that the same issues that require the more onerous features of GO #1, while deployed, are being overlooked in the interest of political expediency. Do homosexuals not face the same fraternization issues? How do these commanders work around these "thorny issues"? So far I've asked 4 fully DADT'd up JAG O-4s and up, no answers.
    • Benjamin Grimes
      4/28/2011 5:14 PM
      Tim, as you point out, the road ahead won't be paved with cupcakes. Getting right to your example, General Order No. 1 (GO 1B) actually does NOT prevent opposite-sex socializing in living quarters. The Order which applies to Central Command (CENTCOM) is silent about both sex and visitation policies. I know that GO 1 for Afghanistan is a more restrictive, but it still doesn't prevent sex or visitation. (Some local commanders might have enacted more restrictive policies). Drafting a consistent policy might be as simple as making gender-neutral visitation rules (such as, "Soldiers may not have visitors in their living quarters from 2300-0530 hours."). This might make same-sex (non-romantic) socializing more difficult (the late night PS3 parties might have to end), but it's a policy that could easily be enforced. As I see it, GO 1B isn't a bar at all to openly gay Soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and small changes to visitation policies can remedy concerns about the 'fairness' of gay Soldiers having greater opportunities to spend romantic time together. I'm guessing your next point will be that same-sex roommates who are romantically involved will have no limits at all about how much time they could spend together. But remember that just about all forms of sexual intimacy between same-sex partners will run afoul of the UCMJ until changes are made. I expect that working out the visitation rules will happen a lot faster than changing the UCMJ. I know this isn't a perfect answer; ultimately my point is that we don't need the perfect solution right now. The 'right answer' will come with time. But not having the perfect solution now doesn't mean we should continue to sit on our hands.
  • Daniel
    4/10/2012 9:33 AM
    You write with such compassion and understanding. Your children will grow up with admiration of their father rather than fear. Accepting the new norm is not without pain and struggle. Mostly, the Soldiers of today do not care (mostly), but many are strongly influenced by the profound teachings of their parents and church. When I was younger and less educated, I too believed that others --not like my family in color, religion, geography, and views on sexuality---were wrong and we were supposed to dislike them. I had to leave my family to learn they were wrong. All of my college tuition, destined to be an Educator, was spent learning that others are "people" too. Humanity prevails--maybe not when I want it, but it does prevail. peace
    • Benjamin Grimes
      4/12/2012 5:08 PM
      Daniel,

      Thanks for your note, your thoughts, and for sharing your experience. It's a great reminder of two things -- first, there are lots of reasons why someone might develop prejudices; and sometimes breaking through those prejudices is just a matter of getting out of our comfort zone for a little while.

      Thanks for reading,
      MAJG

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