Obama Pledges to Repeal Ban on Gay Soldiers

November 29, 2007 at 10:35 am 11 comments

In response to a question from the Human Rights Campaign, Barack Obama made this statement on what he would do as president to repeal the ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers in the military. HRC has asked each of the major Democratic candidates to answer the question “If you are elected President, what concrete steps would you take to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?’”

This statement lays out specifically what Barack would do to allow gay men and lesbians to serve their country through military service without being forced to lie.

Click for Barack Obama’s platform on LGBT civil rights.

Fourteen years ago, the Democratic Party faced a test of leadership, and our party failed that test. We had an opportunity to be leaders on the World stage in eliminating discrimination against gay and lesbian service members, to recognize the patriotism and heroism of the hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian citizens who have served our country. Instead, we bowed to fear and prejudice. We were told that American soldiers weren’t ready to serve next to gay and lesbian comrades. We were told that our airmen, sailors and Marines would lose their “unit cohesion” if we implemented a policy of equality. And so, rather than embracing leadership and principle, we embraced Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — a policy that is antithetical to the values of honor and integrity that our military holds most dear. Patriotic gay and lesbian Americans are now told that they may serve their country only if they hide their true identities. They are forced to live a lie as the price of risking their lives for their country.

Fourteen years later, the United States of America lags far behind. We lag behind our military allies, who are repudiating discrimination against lesbian and gay soldiers in ever increasing numbers — in Great Britain, Canada, Israel, nearly every NATO member in Europe — all with no impact upon military readiness and performance. And our politicians lag behind the American people, who now call for the repeal of Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell in super-majority numbers. It is time for a change.

As president, I will work with Congress and place the weight of my administration behind enactment of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which will make nondiscrimination the official policy of the U.S. military. I will task the Defense Department and the senior command structure in every branch of the armed forces with developing an action plan for the implementation of a full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And I will direct my Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to develop procedures for taking re-accession requests from those qualified service members who were separated from the armed forces under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and still want to serve their country. The eradication of this policy will require more than just eliminating one statute. It will require the implementation of anti-harassment policies and protocols for dealing with abusive or discriminatory behavior as we transition our armed forces away from a policy of discrimination. The military must be our active partners in developing those policies and protocols. That work should have started long ago. It will start when I take office.

America is ready to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All that is required is leadership.


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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Prioleau Alexander  |  December 12, 2007 at 9:29 am

    As a former Marine officer, I would be happy to explain to you why openly gay servicemen would be a problem. Short version– It has nothing to do with homosexuality; it is the issue of surrendering one’s individuality completely. When a man puts on his uniform and reports for duty, he becomes a Marine. And that’s all he is: A professional killer, ready to do the bidding of the elected officials who represent the people of his nation. The explanation of why individuality causes a breakdown in the chain of command is long… but I’ll write it out if it’s something you are interested in.
    Semper Fi,

  • 2. rb  |  December 12, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    epa, it’s funny then that the military doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender, or religion. It only discriminates based on sexual orientation. How does displaying one’s sexual orientation make one any more of an individual than displaying one’s race or religion?

    I agree that it’s important that soldiers sacrifice their own individuality for the good of the whole, as you described. But I never understood why the military sees sexual orientation as an expression of that individuality any more than it sees race, religion, or gender as an expression of that individuality.


  • 3. Bailey  |  December 26, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Mr. Alexander,

    I think you have an interesting point and I have some questions about it. Are you saying that then actively heterosexual people also shouldn’t serve? I can easily see that as an actual effective argument and I am being especially serious. But DADT looks at the past actions of soldiers also. If you are saying that people have to give up their sexuality no matter what it is then unless people are discharged for heterosexual relations then I feel that your argument is flawed. One point that should be evaluated if you are asking for sacrificing sexuality is that many homosexuals have repressed urges in the past and are probably more suited to repress sexual urges. If your argument is focused on the fact that homosexuality makes a possible service man much more different then heterosexuality, I would point out that rb is right when he points out other minority groups that are represented by the armed services.

    Thank you for your time,

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  • 5. Prioleau Alexander  |  January 13, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    I will write this response in good faith that you are actually interested in these ideas. The response could and should take pages to properly illustrate, but I’ll give you the short version.

    So, here goes: The infantry operates mostly as a group of soldiers called a Company, with a Captain serving as the Company Commander. Under him are four Platoons– three line Platoons, and weapons Platoon. Each Platoon is led by a Lieutenant.

    In combat, it is the Lieutenant and the enlisted troops in his Platoon who do the dying, take the hills, and plant the flag. When a dangerous mission arises, it is the Company Commander who is burdoned with making the decision who does what.

    Example: Hill 101 needs to be taken, and the enemy is a bunch of badass dudes. In a situation like this, the Company Commander would probably have two platoons (and weapons platoon) lay down a base of fire, and one platoon rush Hill 101. The guys doing the hill rushing are likely to get dead.

    Problem: No one wants to get dead. Allowing yourself to be ordered to your death is a tough thing to swallow. So when the Company Commander gives the order, there cannot be ANYTHING lurking in the troops’ minds regarding his decision.

    Now, let’s take a look at the makeup of this new, gay-friendly military.
    1st PLATOON COMMANDER– Straight
    2nd PLATOON COMMANDER– Straight
    3rd PLATOON COMMANDER– Openly Gay.

    Now, it’s time to give the orders, and one platoon must be ordered into harms way… possible death. Unfortunately, the Company Commander now has a problem. Does he pick the best man for the job? Or does he now have to consider the ramifications of doing that?

    If he picks the gay Lieutenant’s platoon, will the troops in that platoon may refuse the orders, claiming, “He’s picked us because he doesn’t want to appear biased. He’s picked us because our Lieutenant is gay, and he doesn’t want to appear biased to the higher-ups. He’s doing it to cover his own ass.”

    If he picks one of the straight Lieutenant’s platoons, will those troops say, “To hell with that. He’s picked us because he’s likes that gay Lieutenant, and doesn’t want to get him killed.”

    Do you understand how unacceptable this is in a combat environment where men are armed? This is what the military means when it says something is unhealthy for the “good order and discipline” of a unit.

    People who’ve never served in the military love to say, “That’s an issue of discipline. The troops must do as they ordered.”

    Troops are not robots, and they are not morons. They deserve to serve in situations so above-board that questions of perception cannot arise. We should never put them in a situation where they have any reason question the motives of those who lead them. Whether they SHOULD question their leader is irrelevant… they will.

  • 6. Proileau Alexander  |  February 5, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I recently received an email asking if my explanation meant I was “okay” with the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

    Absolutely. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a good policy, as it enables gays and lesbians to serve their country without prejudices interfering. The focus of the military must always be on accomplishing the orders of the chain of command. An individual’s sexual preference plays no role in accomplishing the mission when in uniform… and the sexual activities of an individual during their off time is no one’s business but their own.

    Senator Obama is a smart guy, and I believe that if he’s elected will seek the advice and counsel of his generals and admirals. I believe they will advise him that President Clinton made the right choice with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It is the best, surest way to ensure that gays and lesbians are treated fairly, and are judged on their performance, NOT their sexual preferences.

  • 7. Marine Two  |  March 2, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Mr. Alexander,

    Respectfully, your argument regarding “questions of perception” simply doesn’t hold up. If you substitute the words “white” and “black” for “gay” and “straight”. the same argument applies, but we reject both its soundness (doesn’t seem to hold) and its validity (even if it holds, we reject institutionalizing racism in the Corps). It is exactly the same argument advanced against desegregating the Armed Forces under Truman. It was wrong in terms of race and is wrong for sexual orientation as well.

    When it comes to it, as you know, there are no black Marines or white Marines, just Marines (or if you rather, nothing but green).

    Likewise, no gay Marines and straight Marines, just Marines. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell demeans our gay Devil Dogs. I don’t care who’s gay, I just want someone who can fight and blow shit up.

    Semper Fi!

  • 8. Prioleau Alexander  |  November 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Unfortunately, your black/white analysis is flawed. The Marine Corps is, in fact, an uber-macho gun culture. As a result, it takes a Dark-green Marine about a day to win the respect of a Light-green Marine. That’s because performance is performance is performance. What you see is what you get. The honor-grad of my TBS class was a Dark-green Marine, and he was a total stud: Smart, great leader, maxxed the PFT, etc, etc.
    His exceptional reputation would have been needlessly impuned if he had been openly gay. Men who live in barracks resepct what they respect, and disrespect what they disrespect. For good or ill, that’s a fact. Using the 98% of the heterosexual Marines as part of a feel-good social experiment is wrong– for the reason that it DOES interfere with the good order and discipline of the unit.
    Semper Fi

  • 9. John Brown  |  December 2, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Unfortunately, Mr. Alexander uses the exact same arguments used to first block blacks from full inclusion in the military and then bar women from service. Both African-Americans and women have been integrated very successfully into all parts of the military.

    War Eagle!

  • 10. Marley Green  |  January 27, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Dear sir,

    Thank you. As a mother of a Marine who was a selfish young boy without focus or vision, but after joining and embacing the Marine Corps, was transformed into a confident, competent, man who now considers himself a part of something excellent, you said what I didnt know how to say.

    I voted for this president, but on this issue, we part ways. I hope he listens to people like you.

    On a side note, as an African American woman I personally take issue with the comparison of African American sufferage to that of gays. There is no logical way to compare the level of brutality on African Americans for several hundreds of years to that of gays seeking the right to be openly gay in the military.

    But that aside, I raised my son to be color blind. He has excelled on every level. Part of the reason he excels is that when he joined the Marines, he did not join as a “black” Marine, but as a Marine. This attitude helped him to excel to some of the highest levels. He has stated to me, that after many years of experiencing racism, this is the only place, where he feels he has been treated like an equal.

  • 11. Marley Green  |  January 27, 2009 at 6:19 am

    ….and I should have also said, he has the highest level of respect from the Marines who serve with him.


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