News of "don't ask, don't tell" on a news-crawl sign in Times Square, New York City.
News of "don't ask, don't tell" on a news-crawl sign in Times Square, New York City. Tina Fineberg/AP
The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is clearly a seismic shift in the U.S. military's treatment of gay and lesbian service members.
Just how radical a break it will be from the official policy of the past 17 years when don't ask was the law of the land, and before that law when the treatment of gays in uniform was even worse, was captured perfectly by a noncommissioned officer quoted in a New York Times story.
An Army platoon sergeant who recently led front-line soldiers in Afghanistan, and who supported the ban’s repeal, said he envisioned a difficult transition period during which harassment of openly gay troops would be common.
"They were kicking people out for being homosexual, and now they will be kicking people out for picking on homosexuals," the sergeant said.
The sergeant may be overstating matters somewhat since it's doubtful the military will discharge service members who conduct anything but the most egregious acts of anti-gay bias. But his hyperbole certainly captures the sharp direction if not the degree of the shift.
Meanwhile, anyone seeking a useful history of the soon-to-be-defunct don't ask should read the 12-page document produced by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
It makes it fairly clear that don't ask was a very flawed policy in practice besides likely being unconstitutional.
And if you want a good read on how the don't ask repeal effort unfolded over the past year, Marc Ambinder provides it with a National Journal piece that gives much credit for the success to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.