Don't ask, don't tell

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Don't ask, don't tell (DADT) is the term commonly used for the policy restricting the United States military from efforts to discover or reveal the sexuality of closeted homosexual or bisexual servicemembers or applicants, while barring those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service. The restrictions are mandated by federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654). The policy prohibits people who "demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because their presence "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." (10 U.S.C. § 654(b)) The act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The act specifies that service members who disclose they are homosexual or engage in homosexual conduct shall be separated (discharged) except when a service member's conduct was "for the purpose of avoiding or terminating military service" or when it "would not be in the best interest of the armed forces" (10 U.S.C. § 654(e)).

As it exists, DADT specifies that the "don't ask" part of the policy indicates that superiors should not initiate investigation of a servicemember's orientation in the absence of disallowed behaviors, though credible and articulable evidence of homosexual behavior may cause an investigation. Violations of this aspect through unauthorized investigations and harassment of suspected servicemen and women resulted in the policy's current formulation as "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue, don't harass."[1]

Efforts to repeal the policy, in effect since 1993, increased following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, who advocated a full repeal (i.e. allowing homosexual and bisexual service members to serve openly) during his election campaign.[2] In 2010 the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that would repeal the relevant sections of the law. When this measure was stalled in the Senate, a stand-alone act for repeal was introduced in that body. The House passed a stand-alone bill with identical language on December 15, 2010. Following a successful cloture vote in the Senate on December 18, 2010, the bill was passed[3] and, on December 22, signed into law by President Obama.[4] The policy remains in place until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that repeal will not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period.[5]

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