It’s official: President Obama signed a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Wednesday morning. The move marks an end to the 17-year-old Clinton-era policy that’s kept thousands of gay and lesbian soliders to stay in the closet or risk being discharged from the military once their sexuality came to light. It’s especially welcome news for soldiers of color, who were already disproportionately impacted by the policy.
From the New York Times:
“No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder,” Mr. Obama said during a signing ceremony in a packed auditorium at the Interior Department here. Quoting the chairman of his joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, Mr. Obama went on, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”
The repeal does not immediately put a stop to “don’t ask, don’t tell;” Mr. Obama must still certify that repeal will not harm military readiness, as must Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mullen, before the military can implement the new law. But the secretary and the admiral have backed Mr. Obama, who said ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a topic of his first meeting with the men. He praised Mr. Gates for his courage; Admiral Mullen, who was on stage with the president during the signing ceremony here, received a standing ovation.
A recent report by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce found that black women often bared the brunt of the military’s harsh standard of secrecy.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been used to kick Black women out of the military at a much higher rate than other groups. In fact, Black women are discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at three times the rate that they serve in the military. Although Black women make up less than one percent of servicemembers, they comprise 3.3% of those discharged under the policy.