Press

Support Crumbling For 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' NGLTF Says

Date: 
December 14, 1999

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

Several recent events, statements by political leaders and recently released polling data all are coming together to show that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," policy toward gays and lesbians serving in the military may be crumbling under the combined weight of hypocrisy and discrimination, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said today.

Within the past week, the following events have occurred:

  • A report released by the Policy Institute of NGLTF shows that 70 percent of U.S. residents support the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military, up from 55 percent in 1992. This figure includes 57 percent of self-identified conservatives, 70 percent of moderates and 91 percent of liberals.

  • Vice President Al Gore, in a strongly worded statement, called for elimination of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Another Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Bradley, had issued a similar call earlier in the campaign season. "In light of the Winchell case and other evidence, I believe the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy should be eliminated," Gore said. "Gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve their country without discrimination."

  • The U.S. Army continues to hound Steve May, an Arizona state legislator and Army reservist. Despite the fact that May had been rated "one of the finest young officers" in the Army by his superiors, the U.S. Army is moving forward with plans to discharge May after he said he is gay during a floor debate before the Arizona Legislature.

  • President Clinton came out strongly this past weekend over the way "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been implemented. "The policy as implemented does not work as I announced and as the leaders of the military at that time in 1993 pledged to implement it," Clinton said.

  • Hillary Clinton, appearing at a New York fundraiser, said that if she is elected to the U.S. Senate, she will work to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "Gays and lesbians already serve with distinction in our nation's armed forces and should not face discrimination," she said. "Fitness to serve should be based on an individual's conduct, not their sexual orientation."

  • A Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier was convicted of brutally murdering Pfc. Barry Winchell and sentenced to life in prison. Pfc. Winchell was murdered after an Army sergeant violated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by asking Winchell about his sexual orientation, and after rumors regarding Winchell circulated throughout his Army barracks. Winchell was harassed and hounded in the months before his death.

  • The number of gays and lesbians discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation increased 86 percent from 1993 ­ the year the policy was implemented ­ to 1998, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

  • While the military is rooting out gay and lesbian servicemembers, all branches of the armed services are experiencing an enlistment crisis, in part because of the booming civilian economy. In fiscal 1999, the U.S. Army fell 8 percent short of its recruiting goals.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is dying," said NGLTF Political Director Rebecca Isaacs. "This policy is simply wrong and 57 percent of conservatives and 70 percent of moderates agree that gays and lesbians should be able to serve without discrimination. Yet only two candidates for president have called for eliminating 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It is obvious that some politicians are out of touch with their constituents. This policy is ruining lives and ruining careers and it is time that we elected a president and a Congress that will allow all gays and lesbians to serve their country."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.