On the same day I was finishing the second chapter of my dissertation, I was asked to write two pieces on Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. I linked the first here. Earlier today, Pajamas Media published the second of those pieces. Here’s the opening.
Seventeen years ago, just days after becoming president, Bill Clinton rushed to fulfill a promise he had made several times on the campaign trail in 1992–he would repeal the ban on gays serving in the military. At the time, the presdient could have repealed the ban with the stroke of a pen. It was an administrative directive, not federal law.
Clinton, however, did not lay the groundwork for repeal. His fellow Democrat, Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga), then-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, an opponent of the ban, held hearings which upstaged the president. Colin Powell, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Stuff, voiced his opposition. And Clinton had Barney Frank, an openly gay Democratic Congressman, defending him. That Massachusetts Democrat had no history of military service and was not well regarded in military circles. He cast this issue as one of gay rights.
In the end, Frank helped craft a compromise, legislation that would come to be known as Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT). It allowed gay people to serve provided they don’t openly declare their sexuality. But, it also codified the ban. No longer an administrative directive, it was no federal law. The president would need an act of Congress to repeal it.
Now that I’ve whet your appetite, click here to read the rest.