January 28, 2011
By Adam Bink
As many of you have noted in the comments, today the Department of Defense held a media briefing regarding an update on implementation of repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. They also released a 5-page memo to the public from Sec. Gates, and another one from Under Secretary Stanley (which I’ve uploaded so you can read here and here).
After reading the memos and the DOD’s comments, a few notes:
- The Under Secretary responsible for implementation, Clifford Stanley, is tasked with delivering an outline of implementation regarding training and “to facilitate the timely and orderly realization” by February 4th, which is good news. One of the concerns many, including myself, had was a drawn-out months-long process just to study implementation and develop a plan. We still have to ensure that certification happens sooner rather than later, as there is no timeline in sight until an openly gay or lesbian person can walk into a recruiting office and sign up, or a servicemember can come out, but this is welcome news. More on that from Gen. Cartwright below.
- Gates lays out six guidelines for developing the policy, guidelines which speak to non-discrimination in the armed forces. The language, which is below, appears to be very positive:
- All personnel will be treated with respect.
- No policy should be established that is solely based on on sexual orientation.
- Harassment or unlawful discrimination of any member of the Armed Forces for any reason will not be tolerated.
- Standards of personal and professional conduct will apply uniformly to all military personnel, regardless of sexual orientation.
- Implementation will be timely, deliberate, comprehensive, and consistent with the standards of readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
- Implementation standards will be consistent across all Services.
- One of the more controversial issue that came up during repeal efforts, voiced particularly by Sen. Manchin, is how chaplains whose personal views conflict with the new policy will be treated. The memo states “[t]here will be no changes regarding Service member exercise of religious beliefs, nor are there any changes to policies concerning the Chaplain Corps of the Military Departments and their duties. The Chaplain Corps’ First Amendment freedoms and their duty to care for all will not change.” It’s not clear what that will mean for an openly gay or lesbian servicemember who seeks counsel e.g. whether the chaplain available can refuse to provide counsel.
- At the hearing, Vice Chairman Cartwright said certification could happen within a year, and also said the Pentagon believes “moving along expeditiously is better than dragging it out.”
- It’s unclear as of yet the ramifications for someone who is discriminated against based on sexual orientation, and that’s something I would like to see fleshed out in the plan due February 4th.
- Some have asked whether those who were discharged previously under the policy that was repealed would be receiving “back pay”. Stanley’s memo makes it clear they would not.
- Nor will there be extension benefits to same-sex partners or spouses, as it is prohibited under DOMA, which is also detailed in Stanley’s memo. Opposite-sex spouses will continue to receive such benefits.
Some fairly good news in all of this, given the range of possibilities and language of the law. As we’ve said from day one after the signing, we’re here to make sure nothing is dragged out, and servicemembers can sign up and serve openly sooner rather than later.