WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Defense has issued a newly worded statement regarding the Pentagon’s position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the federal ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel. The new statement, first released to a reporter with the LGBT newsmagazine The Advocate, includes the first language from Pentagon leaders suggesting that lesbian and gay service personnel should continue to use their skills in support of national security efforts, even after facing dismissal under the law.
The Pentagon is urging LGBT service members dismissed under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to return to service through the Department of Defense, the CIA or the National Security Agency, all organizations that welcome gay employees.
Lesbian and gay personnel dismissed under the ban “have the opportunity to continue to serve their nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way of civilian employment with other Federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector, such as with a government contractor,” Cynthia O. Smith of the Defense Press Office said in the statement. It is the first Pentagon statement, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which encourages lesbian and gay former service personnel to continue their federal
“In its new statement, Pentagon leaders clearly acknowledge that lesbian and gay Americans make important contributions to our national security and that our country is better off when their skills are employed, not turned away,” said Steve Ralls, director of communications for SLDN. “As this new statement points out, lesbian and gay service members are welcome to return to the Department of Defense, as civilian employees, often doing the same job as during their uniformed careers, even after being fired under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Indeed, the National Security Agency, Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency — and even the Department of Defense — all welcome openly gay civilian employees. Our armed forces should do so as well.”
The statement, Ralls said, may also reflect a significant change in attitudes among military leaders about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“In the early days of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the Pentagon’s public statements were a vigorous defense of the law, citing military commanders’ insistence that the prohibition on open service was necessary to maintain unit cohesion and morale,” Ralls said. “Post-September 11th, however, there was a noticeable shift in the Department of Defense’s position regarding the ban. Pentagon public affairs no longer made a ‘necessity argument,’ and no longer pointed to any support for the law among its command or the rank-and-file. Instead, the debate over ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ became one the Pentagon deferred to Congress to settle. Congress, the Pentagon correctly pointed out, has full authority to debate the law and, if they see fit, repeal it. With this new statement, the Department of Defense has taken an even more significant step forward. Now Congress should repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and welcome every American who wants to serve, regardless of sexual orientation.”