Bill Clinton Proposes "don't ask, don't tell" Military Policy

The policy was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 and approved by then President Bill Clinton who, while campaigning for the Presidency, had promised to allow all citizens regardless of sexual orientation to serve openly in the military, a departure from the then complete ban on those who are not heterosexual.

Don't ask, don't tell (DADT) is the common term for the policy regarding gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military mandated by federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654). Unless one of the exceptions from 10 U.S.C. § 654(b) applies, the policy prohibits anyone who "demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because "it would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." The act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The "don't ask" part of the policy indicates that superiors should not initiate investigation of a service member's orientation in the absence of disallowed behaviors, though mere suspicion of homosexual behavior can cause an investigation. This policy has made the United States the only Western, rich, and industrialized nation that forbids gays from serving openly in the military.

In 1993 President Bill Clinton attempted to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military. It was one of the most contentious efforts of his administration, sparking months of intense debate. Following twelve legislative hearings and field trips, Congress passed a law codifying and confirming the pre-Clinton policy. That statute, technically named Section 654, Title 10, P.L. 103-160, [1] is frequently mislabeled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A more accurate name would have been the “Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993.” [2] The statute, which has been upheld by the courts as constitutional several times, clearly states that homosexuals are not eligible for military service.
In 1993 members of Congress gave serious consideration to a proposal known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was announced by President Clinton on July 19, 1993. The concept suggested that homosexuals could serve in the military as long as they didn’t say they were homosexual. Congress wisely rejected the convoluted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” concept and did not write it into law. Members recognized an inherent inconsistency that would render that policy unworkable and indefensible in court: If homosexuality is not a disqualifying characteristic, how can the armed forces justify dismissal of a person who merely reveals the presence of such a characteristic? Instead of approving such a convoluted and legally-questionable concept, Congress chose to codify Defense Department regulations that were in place long before Bill Clinton took office.