Gay People in the Military

The subject of gay people in the military has been a controversial topic in United States history. Specific rules against gays serving in the military were not in place until 1941, but up until then, people who were suspected to be gay or those who engaged in homosexual activity were dishonorably discharged from the military.

During World War II, policy changed to the ordering of “blue discharges.” These discharges were classified as neither honorable or dishonorable, but they still held a negative connotation. In 1947, the military stopped issuing blue discharges, but gay people in the military were still given either undesirable or dishonorable discharges upon discovery.

During the 1970s, the issue of gay people in the military started to pick up steam politically, as several cases went to the high courts, albeit unsuccessfully. In 1981, the Department of Defense issued a clear regulation about military homosexuality that stated its belief that the presence of gay people in the military was detrimental to the structure and order of the military’s operations.

The issue, however, remained on the mind of the public, and in 1992, it was a hot-button political issue that was at the forefront of the Presidential election between President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Clinton ran on the campaign promise of ending the ban on gay people in the military, and, as the general public became more sympathetic to gay issues, many people became supportive of the new president’s plan.

In 1993, the Clinton administration passed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a new military policy that banned only open homosexuality in the military. Those who did not reveal their homosexuality could serve, and officers could not ask anyone to reveal his or her sexual orientation.

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed an act that repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ending the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuality for good.

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