Ten years ago today, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was officially repealed, a directive instituted in 1994 that prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual military service members from disclosing their sexuality or risk being discharged from service. Over the course of 17 years, the policy is responsible for discharging over 13,000 members and harming thousands more—an impact that is still felt to this day.
One of our country’s greatest strengths is its diversity, a diversity that is reflected in our armed forces today more than ever before. The journey to this point, however, involved decades of discrimination that actively harmed millions of Americans before, during, and after service—simply because of the color of their skin, their gender identity, or the people they chose to love.
Today, on the tenth anniversary of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, we celebrate the end of one such policy and honor our fellow veterans in the LGBTQ+ community harmed by the law. For the 17 years, this discriminatory policy was in effect, thousands of servicemembers were denied their full humanity as they were forced to hide parts of themselves or risk losing their career.
While the end to DADT was an important step toward eliminating discrimination in the military, its effects—and the bigotry that drove its creation—still reverberate throughout the military and our nation. As we look toward the next ten years of progress in our armed forces, we must do more than create space for healing—we must create a truly inclusive and representative service that disbands the hetoronormative and patriarchal systems that dominate our military today. Then, and only then, can we proudly claim that the culture responsible for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is gone for good.
We will continue to support and advocate for our fellow veterans in the LGBTQ+ community, especially those still impacted by the discrimination experienced while serving. We make space for you to be your full, true selves and to tell your stories because only together will we make the military—and this nation—a safe place for all.
Team Common Defense