by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I think that DADT was better than the status quo for one reason: it allowed supporters to point out the absurdity of claims by opponents of gay service that it would have any number of negative effects on the military. Specifically, it was the absurdity of DADT itself that made it better than the status quo: allowing gays to serve silently forced opponents to admit that gays are capable of fulfilling the requirements of military service despite their sexual orientation.
DADT was the status quo. Before Clinton took office, if someone outed himself, he was thrown out. If someone else outed him, he was thrown out. After DADT was instituted, that exact scenario continued. It changed nothing.
One of Bernstein's commenters makes an intriguing point:
In some ways DADT was better and worse. It meant the the question of sexual orientation was not posed as part of the intake process (which did not really change much, since that was really just an informal "Don't Tell" policy). But it did change the rules to allow people to be kicked out of the military just for "telling" whereas before, I believe, there actually had to be a homosxual "act" for a person to be discharged. Under DADT, people were discharged for simply writing letters or emails indicating they were gay even if the person never acted on it. This had the probably unintended effect of changing the way that the military viewed homosexuality from an act (meaning a choice) to something that was an innate aspect of a person (paralleling the same debate in society at large about whether homosexuality is a choice or an immutable characteristic). Without that shift in perspective, I find it hard to believe that the ban ever would have been lifted (or that the gay rights movement would have been as successful as it has been over the last few decades).