As military personnel prepare for Tuesday’s end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”— the law that bans gay and lesbian service members from serving openly — media outlets have been increasing their coverage of gay and lesbian people in the military. From hard news coverage of the law’s repeal to feature length stories about the social and cultural aspects of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” much of the mainstream media has so far succeeded in providing fair and accurate reporting from a range of perspectives.
The Associated Press wrote an article, published Monday in The New York Times and other outlets, about the experience of civilian partners of gay and lesbian service members in light of the repeal — voices we haven’t often heard from, even when the debate over the law was at its height. The piece interviews five partners about the challenges of concealing their relationships, the excitement over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the hope of future inclusion in military family life. “This is life-changing,” said Cathy Cooper, one of the interviewees. “I just want to be able to breathe — knowing I can call my partner at work and have a conversation without it having to be in code.”
The Huffington Post posted a column Sunday by Lambda Legal’s Legal Director Jon Davidson that reflects on the law’s repeal. “As we celebrate on the 20th, let’s hope that decision’s recognition of how harmful DADT has been is not erased and let’s rededicate ourselves to ending the ongoing harms that DADT has caused and assuring equality in the military for all LGBT Americans,” Davidson wrote.
The Associated Press also released an article Monday about the amendment of a gay World War II veteran’s discharge papers. Melvin Dwork, now 89 years old, was ‘undesirably’ discharged in 1944 due to his sexual orientation, but the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington, D.C., decided in mid-August to change the charge to ‘honorable’ — the first such decision they have made since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I think that with the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there is a growing realization within the military that not only gays be allowed to serve openly now but this was probably the wrong policy all along,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center at UCLA which specializes in research on gender, sexuality and the military. “This illustrates, at least in the case of one person, that the military is trying to set things right.”
Below, watch a clip about Melvin and others affected by the law:
The New York Times editorial board wrote a piece published on Monday that argues for the reinstatement of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The writers acknowledge the challenges of such an effort, but point to the challenges that exiled service members have faced as evidence they should be allowed to reenlist. “They’ve survived years of humiliation under the old policy, before being investigated and drummed out,” the board wrote. “It’s moving to hear undiminished idealism among exiled veterans who have not lost their belief in national service.”
The repeal was mentioned on CNN’s American Morning on Friday with anchors Christine Romans and Carol Costello. “‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ will be history in days,” Costello said. “The Pentagon says the ban on gays serving openly in the military will be officially repealed on Tuesday.”
Writers at the Center for American Progress are already looking beyond “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Laura Conley and Lawrence J. Korb wrote a piece published last Tuesday about securing equal benefits for same-sex couples. “Since Congress and the president approved the repeal of DADT last December, legal wrangling has caused DADT to be suspended and reinstated several times over the last year,” Conley and Korb wrote. “Our service men and women have handled these changes with exceptional professionalism. They have proven that the military is ready for the change that the end of DADT will bring and it is now time for the Pentagon’s leadership to step up.”
A military perspective of Tuesday’s repeal was also covered by The Associated Press in the New York Times on Thursday. Gen. Carter Ham, who co-directed a Pentagon study on the effects of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” spoke out, saying that while he expects some civilians will voice their opinions when the repeal goes into effect on Tuesday, he thinks the debate has concluded within the actual military. “My hope, my expectation, my belief is that it will be pretty inconsequential,” he said.
And what of the troops themselves? The Washington Post reported last Tuesday that the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a non-profit legal group that worked to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is advising LGBT service members on how to celebrate the law’s demise. According to Defense Department policy, once the law is repealed on Tuesday, troops are both allowed to announce that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, and they are allowed to attend the events organized on some military bases that celebrate the repeal. They are not, however, allowed to raise money for LGBT advocacy groups on base and “should not, of course, criticize their commanders (or past commanders) or elected officials or urge the election or defeat of candidates for office,” the SLDN guidance said.
FOX31 Denver spoke to a local veteran about the experience of being gay in the military. See the clip, which aired Saturday, on the network's website.
Finally, this week’s issue of the Marine Corps Times features a cover story about gay, lesbian and bisexual troops and their take on “roommates, showers and dates at the Birthday Ball.”
GLAAD applauds media for covering the stories of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members in the days leading up to the repeal of this discriminatory law. We encourage outlets to continue telling the stories of the diverse people affected by the historic decision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”