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The End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

OPB | Feb. 3, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:14 p.m.

Mike Francis, writing an Oregonian editorial, said it “reverberated from central Portland to military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Last Tuesday night, Barack Obama announced that after promising to do so in his presidential campaign, he’s ready to seek the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

This led to cautious cheers from some members of the gay community (basically a collective “I’ll believe it when I see it”), as well as protest from other quarters: Bill Kristol, for example, called the repeal an “untested, unnecessary and probably unwise social experiment.”

Both sides might have a better sense for how this will play out — militarily and politically — now that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here’s a full video from hearing.

Admiral Mullen spoke personally:

No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens…. For me, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.

But Senator John McCain was skeptical:

Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective. It has helped to balance a potentially disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all-volunteer force. It is well understood and predominantly supported by our fighting men and women. It reflects, as I understand them, the preferences of our uniformed services. It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale while still allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country in uniform.

If you served in the armed forces — or are serving now — how has DADT affected your life? What would its repeal mean to you? What challenges do you think the the military will face as it begins to dismantle this 17-year-old policy?

And what historical parallels might shed light on this moment? If you served in the military when it was racially integrated in 1948, how was that top-down order received on the ground?

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