Don't ask, Don't Tell: Questions and Answers Email This Story Print This Story

In The Army…

Treating soldiers with dignity and respect is a bedrock value for the Army.  There is no room for harassment or threats in the military.  The Army is determined to implement the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy with fairness to all concerned.  This policy must be clearly understood and fairly enforced.

What Did the Congress Say?

In 1993, Congress made a finding that engaging in, attempting to engage in, or soliciting another to engage in homosexual acts is grounds for discharge from the military.  Congress said that military service by those who have demonstrated a propensity to engage in homosexual acts creates an unacceptable risk to morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.  Therefore, the long-standing element of military law that prohibits homosexual conduct continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.

It was the sense of Congress that applicants should not be asked about homosexuality as part of the processing of individuals entering into the Armed Forces in the absence of a determination by the Secretary of Defense that such questions are necessary. Applicants for military service are no longer asked about their sexual orientation.

Army policy is a balance of the legal prohibition of homosexual conduct with the privacy rights of Soldiers.

What Does the Law Say?

United States Code Title 10 addresses homosexuality in the armed services. The code recognizes that one of the most critical elements in combat capability is unit cohesion. The code affirms that the armed forces must maintain personnel policies that exclude persons who would create an unacceptable risk to unit cohesion.  Title 10 recognizes that military life is fundamentally different from civilian life and concludes that the presence of individuals in the armed forces who engage in homosexual acts creates an unacceptable risk to unit cohesion and standards of morale, good order and discipline.

What Does “Don’t Ask” mean?

According to Department of Defense and Army policy, a person’s sexual orientation is considered a personal and private matter that is not a bar to military service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. Upon entry into the Army, applicants may not be asked nor required to reveal their sexual orientation. Applicants will not be asked if they have engaged in homosexual conduct. While on Active Duty soldiers will not be asked about their sexual orientation unless there is credible evidence of homosexual conduct.

What does “Don’t Tell” mean?

“Don’t Tell” is the opposite side of the coin from  “Don’t Ask”. It means simply that soldiers should not disclose or discuss their sexual orientation or conduct. If a soldier admits publicly to being a homosexual, the commander will start an informal inquiry or investigation to determine if credible evidence exists to warrant separation.

What Is Not Credible Evidence?
  • Rumors that a soldier is homosexual
  • Others opinions that a soldier is homosexual
  • Going to a homosexual bar, reading homosexual publications, associating with known homosexuals or marching in homosexual rights rally in civilian clothes
  • Reporting threats or accusations of being homosexual

What Is Credible Evidence?
  • A statement by a reliable person that the soldier has engaged in a homosexual act, heard the soldier state that he or she was homosexual or that the soldier had married or attempted to marry a member of the same sex
  • A statement by a reliable person that they had observed or discovered a soldier saying  or putting in writing a statement acknowledging a homosexual act or the intent to engage in a homosexual act 

What Is Considered Grounds for Investigation?
  • Commanders can only begin an investigation or fact-finding inquiry if credible evidence of possible homosexual conduct exists.  This means that before an investigation begins, a commander must have a reasonable belief that a soldier has:
  • engaged in a homosexual act;
  • stated that he or she is a homosexual or otherwise indicate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct; or
  • married or attempted to marry a person of the same sex

In most cases, when a soldier freely admits to being a homosexual, investigations are not needed in order for a separation to occur.

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