The Mil Life: What are your rights post- DADT?

Sep 21, 2011

"Don't ask, don't tell" has officially been repealed, meaning military servicemembers can publicly reveal that they're gay without fear of official retribution.

In this week's 'The Mil Life' chat, David McKean from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will discuss the end of "don't ask, don't tell," including the rights of servicemembers in the LGBT community, available support networks for those servicemembers and their families, and more.

Discuss how you think the military community will change after this repeal, if at all. Ask questions, get advice, share your own experience and weigh in on this military topic!

This chat is part of The Mil Life, an going chat series the Post hosts for military families. The Mil Life chats take place every Wednesday at noon ET.

Check out these military resources for you and your family:

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On behalf of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, I am pleased to join you today for this chat and answer your questions about the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which became effective at 12:01 a.m. on September 20.  I'm David McKean, legal director, here.  Fire away!  

I see in today's local newspaper that a woman who left the Air Force for being gay will be rejoining the Air Force. How easy/difficult is it for someone who left the military for being gay will be allowed to reenlist?

For those who were kicked out under DADT and who received honorable discharges, and who are otherwise qualified to serve - they will be allowed to apply to re-enter the military just like anyone else who has prior service.  This will mean that all service qualifications (age, physical fitness, need for skills, etc.) will apply.  Those who are able to re-enter will be accepted based on their qualifications and the needs of the service.  


Good morning, I am not a member of the military but I am a government civilian working on an Air Force base in Massachusetts. I'm really interested to see how benefits such as base housing, health insurance, support for spouses etc. will evolve now that military members can openly marry in our state. The military was integrated long before most of society, it will be interesting to see how their policies on rights and benefits for gay spouses will influence national discussion.

Some benefits may now be extended to service members' spouses or partners, but not many.   Benefits like housing and heath insurance are barred by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Title X, which is military code.  In order for these benefits to be extended, DOMA must be repealed.  

I really hope that Don't Ask Don't Tell is reinstated when the Republicans take the presidency in the upcoming election. Don't Ask Don't Tell makes good clean sense. It's totally fair, and enables military members to not feel uncomfortable and threatened by soldiers who are gay and try to come onto them. In your opinion, what are the chances of a Republican administration reinstating Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Several of the GOP candidates have expressed interest in "repealing the repeal" of DADT, but polling shows that 80 percent of the American people support the open service of gay and lesbian patriots, and our nation's senior military leaders support repeal and among the key players in getting this done.  Any President could reverse this enormous step forward, but I think it would be an unpopular move given the military's strong support for repeal.  

Just wondering if gays tend to prefer any particular branch of the services.

It's an interesting question, but the truth is that there are gay and lesbian Americans serving honorably in every branch and always have been.  The great thing about DADT repeal is that they may now serve openly without fear of losing their careers and their livelihoods.  And their families may now come out of the shadows as well and support them.  

I listened to some of the speakers yesterday on C-SPAN regarding the end of DADT. My concern, and I wonder if you agree, is that words matter. Each of the people who spoke said "I'm a gay 1st LT, or a gay Capt". Realizing it was a big day, I still think that sexuality shouldn't be part of our identity as military men and women. Isn't this what this whole movement is about?

I agree.  Given the day, I think that many of those service members were speaking about what DADT repeal and open service means to them.  But I think that if you were to ask them today, they would say that they are service members first and that their sexual orientation is irrelevant to their service.  

At this point, what advice or suggestions do you have to the large group of people (a minority to be sure, but sizeable nonetheless) who honestly and sincerely believe that permitting open homosexuals in the military will degrade its effectiveness? Is the Pentagon planning any studies or evaluations of the new policy over the next few years to put these concerns to rest?

We understand that this remains a concern for a small minority of Americans.  The Pentagon underwent an extensive review of whether DADT repeal would negatively impact the services.  All the service chiefs concluded that repeal would not have a negative impact on readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, or recruiting and retention.  They would not have recommended repeal had this conclusion not been reached.  These remaining concerns will be dispelled over time.  

Given the LCR lawsuit is still in play, what would the effect of DADT being declared unconstitutional be on current repeal and the possibility of reinstatement?

If DADT were declared unconstitutional, it would have no impact on the repeal itself.  DADT is history and will be no matter what the final ruling is in the LCR case.  It's unclear if the court will decide the case is moot or allow it to move forward.  

I'm interested in the discussions about "what next" with regard to benefits for military workers and their same-sex spouses. In particular, it will be interesting to see if and how any changes in military benefits will impact efforts to expand access to benefits for civilian federal employees and their same-sex spouses.

We covered the benefit issue in an earlier question, but in terms of what needs to happen, the courts will either need to declare DOMA unconstitutional or Congress must repeal it.  There's a bill gathering sponsors in Congress to do that now, but a timeline for when it may be taken up is unclear.  SLDN supports these efforts to ensure benefit and family support parity in our military.  

Great chat today!  Unfortunately, we had some tech issues with our chat today and David had to jump to another discussion.  Thanks for joining, and sorry for the inconvenience. 

In This Chat
David McKean
David McKean joined SLDN in 2009 and currently serves as the organization’s Legal Director.

Prior to joining SLDN, David served as a law clerk for the Honorable Steven G. Salant of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland.

David earned his B.S. in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley and his J.D. from the American University, Washington College of Law. During law school he served as Executive Editor of the American University International Law Review, interned at Human Rights First, and served as a research assistant to Professors Herman Schwartz and Teemu Ruskola. While at Berkeley he interned for Senator Dianne Feinstein and worked as an editor for the Rotary World Peace Scholarship Fund. Prior to law school, David spent a year teaching English in southern China.
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