Posted by: Jeff | July 21, 2009

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Then and Now

Joe and I review the history of this sixteen year-old policy, the current attempts to repeal it and our own thoughts on how to go about doing so.

DADT – Then and Now

References for this podcast:

  • Palm Center – Prof. Belkin’s gay rights think tank
  • Frank Rich’s column in The New York Times
  • Website of Congressman Patrick J. Murphy
  • Patrick Murphy speaking on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

Music used in this podcast:

  • “Minstrel Boy” by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, off the soundtrack for Black Hawk Down


  1. good job guys, more humour more banter try disagreeing sometimes well researched, might try this harvard prof arrest and obama’s response also
    you might look at attacking the war network rediculous news and commentary those guys are nuts
    take care you obviously have too much time on your hands
    good graphics is that irland?

  2. Excellent podcast, guys! Good historical roundup and great explanation of the political motivations. I’m glad you stated your position on the matter…I was waiting the whole time for you to say it. I would’ve liked to hear more about the supporting points behind your position (other than the general civil rights argument). In particular, how do you weigh the importance of civil rights against the efficient functioning of our military force, which is absolutely necessary for our safety and standing in the world?

    I find the growth of acceptance by the general population on gays in the military from 40% in the early 90s to 75% today very interesting…but not quite as interesting as the disparity between the 75% in the general public and the 30% in the military itself. So many questions arise from just that difference:

    – Why is there such a discrepancy? Is it just the type of thinking that’s pervasive in the military (probably)? Is the 75% number for the general public inaccurate (possibly, given that gay marriage votes always go the other way)? Is there any true, solid evidence in the military that openly gay soldiers won’t work?

    – That last question begs another question…has the military ever done a formal study on the matter (i.e., does having openly homosexual soldiers impact military performance)? The military is all about refining process…if they have never done a study on the matter, why not? You guys mentioned Truman signing the law that allowed racial integration in the military. Has the Army really looked at how that was done to see if they could systematically do the same thing for homosexuals? Perhaps start with segregated units then slowly integrate?

    – Did similar discrepancies appear in other similar types of situations (police forces, fire departments, etc.) historically? If so, what did they learn?

    If you guys ever have another episode on this topic, would love to know your thoughts on these questions!

  3. Peter, thanks for the comments. Good questions all. Regrettably, there’s only so much info you can stuff into a 15 to 20 minute podcast.

    I suspect the reason for the military’s opposition to gay soldiers serving openly is indeed a cultural matter. The percentage of the military population which hails from southern, suburban and rural areas is noticeably higher than the percentage of the same from the general population. All three of those demographic groups tend to have higher levels of opposition to gay rights in general. And being a very hierarchical, controlled and tradition-based community (understandably so, given its purpose and function) the military is probably much less amenable to these kinds of social changes within its ranks than the culture at large.

    I would assume the 75% approval amongst the general public for gays openly serving is accurate. The public polling on gay marriage is much lower, generally in the 50/50 range, so Americans appear to be distinguishing between the two issues in terms of their comfort and approval. Time is probably also a factor, as populations’ comfort level with particular issues tends to rise after lengthy exposure. Gay marriage has been in the national discourse at a serious level for just the last few years. Gays in the military, as an issue, has been around close to two decades. I think the recent spate of anti-gay-marriage votes across the country, while dramatic, will also turn out to be a short-lived phenomenon.

    Finally, I’m not aware, off the top of my head, of any studies that show evidence of decreased military performance associated with gay members serving openly. Given every other developed nation already allows open service, if any such data were available I would think someone would have found it by now. The Palm Center ( would be a good place to start poking around. From the conservative political side, the Heritage Foundation probably has something as well. I confess I don’t know further specifics. Joe was the point man for research on this one.

    Joe, any thoughts?

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