The Democratic presidential candidates were unanimous in supporting repeal of the anti-gay military policy known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ( DADT ) during a televised debate from New Hampshire on June 3.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton denied that passage of the 'compromise' in 1993, when her husband was president, was a mistake. She called it 'a transition policy.' Observing its implementation, 'I've concluded that it is not the best way for us as a nation to proceed. … We could change the policy to let gays and lesbians serve in the military.'
It was not exactly a clarion call to do so. Clinton further muddied the waters by putting it in the context of the Uniform Code of Military Justice ( UCMJ ) , so that people would be judged by their conduct, not their sexual orientation.
But as blogger John Aravosis wrote, 'The UCMJ basically says that gay service members can't have sex, ever, with anyone, even their partners or spouses in the privacy of their own homes. … My concern is that the UCMJ may still be disproportionately used against gays, as it is now.'
The UCMJ is woefully out of date when it comes to sexual matters. A group of retired senior military attorneys and judges have called for its revision to bring it more in line with legal change in civil society. However, that suggestion has gone nowhere.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 'Peter Pace is flat wrong' in calling gays immoral and not fit to serve in the military, said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. 'I've been to Afghanistan, I've been to Iraq seven times, I've been in the Balkans, I've been in these foxholes with these kids, literally in bunkers with them. Let me tell you something, nobody asked anybody else whether they're gay in those foxholes, number one.'
'Number two, our allies—the British, the French, all our major allies—gays openly serve. I don't know the last time an American soldier said to a backup from a Brit, 'Hey, by the way, let me check. Are you gay? Are you straight?' This is ridiculous. And by the way, we got a war on our hands we're trying to end; in the meantime, we're breaking the military. Nine thousand of these people have been kicked out.'
Governor Bill Richardson, D-N.M., noted, 'I voted against it as a Congressman.' And former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska, pointed to the experience of racial integration in the military beginning in 1948. He said, 'Harry Truman . . . stood up to Omar Bradley when he integrated the services,' and that former President Clinton 'should have demanded immediate integration' in 1993, when 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was implemented instead.
'The eight Democratic candidates have clearly shown they prioritize qualification over discrimination, as any commander-in-chief should,' said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) .