For many years, the MA Library has utilized a “This Week in History” display to highlight books in the collection. This week’s edition notes the anniversary of gays and lesbians being allowed to serve openly in the American military (September 20, 20111). Here is some background information about the event, provided from our Gale Group databases:
“The U.S. military did not explicitly ban homosexuals from serving as soldiers until 1941. In that year, the Army and Navy altered their selection guidelines to classify homosexuality as a “disqualifying condition” for anyone seeking military service. In 1949, the Department of Defense (DOD) formalized the ban on gays in all branches of the military. In addition to being banned from service, any homosexuals discovered among those already within U.S. military ranks were immediately discharged, and were denied many basic benefits available to other veterans, such as the educational opportunities offered by the G.I. Bill.
“While running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton vowed to change the U.S. military ban on homosexuals. After he was elected, Clinton issued a directive that was widely seen as a compromise between the previous policy and a removal of the ban. The directive created a policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for military personnel; essentially, soldiers could not be asked about their sexual orientation, but they could still be discharged if credible information regarding their homosexuality was brought to light. This policy allowed gays to serve in the U.S. military, but not openly.
“By 2009, with the U.S. military heavily involved in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, some military leaders called for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with the hope that it would expand the pool of potential new recruits. At the same time, highly qualified soldiers were being discharged for not keeping quiet about their sexual orientation. Lieutenant Daniel Choi was one of dozens of Arabic-speaking gay soldiers who were expelled from the Army at a time when Arabic speakers were desperately needed. Polls among the different branches of military also revealed that the soldiers themselves generally felt that openly gay soldiers would not adversely affect military performance.
“On 22 December 2010, President Barack Obama signed a law repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy [but it did not go into effect until military officials certified that the armed forces were sufficiently prepared; this occurred on September 20, 2011.]”
“Gays in the Military.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.