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President Clinton: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was not meant to sabotage gays' military careers

by Nick Langewis

Former President Bill Clinton, while on the campaign trail for his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), said that anti-gay forces made 10 USC 654, or the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, do more than he says it was meant to do.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell prohibits a member of the United States military from disclosing a non-heterosexual orientation. Stated fears of lower morale among troops and compromised "unit cohesion" are largely used to justify the policy, which has to date claimed the careers of at least 12,000 men and women with an average of two joining those ranks on a daily basis.

As Servicemembers Legal Defense Network outlines, Don't Ask has been used as a tool to gradually erode the rights of gay servicemembers, with increasing precedent being set to probe into their personal lives for purposes of "rooting out" those suspected of being gay.

Clinton, who signed Don't Ask into law in 1993, says he and then-Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell meant for the policy only to govern gay servicemembers while they were on duty or in uniform.

Servicemembers, says Clinton, "would be free to live their lives; as long as they didn't go marching in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform... In uniform... and talk about it on duty, they would be all right."

According to Clinton, it was after Colin Powell left his post that Don't Ask became a tool to discriminate, and in many cases retaliate, against gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Video, as broadcast on CNN's The Situation Room, is available for viewing below.


Originally published on Saturday January 19, 2008.

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