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.