How the Pentagon Rewrote DADT

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When the Pentagon announced last week that it will relax its “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rules on gays in the military, the move was applauded by gay rights advocates as a first step toward repealing the policy altogether. Mother Jones has obtained a copy of the revised rules which shows exactly how the policy has been tweaked.

The new rules, announced last week by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are intended to make it more difficult for military service members to be discharged for being gay. Gates mentioned some of the key revisions to the rules, such as greater restrictions on the evidence that can be used to dismiss gay service members. Only high-ranking officers will have the authority to launch investigations or decide that a discharge is necessary.

The document provides more detail about the changes, including revisions that Gates didn’t focus on in his announcement. For example, the new policy rewrites the definition of “homosexual conduct” that constitutes grounds for dismissal. Previously, the military had used a broad definition which included the “propensity or intent” to engage in “homosexual acts.” The new policy defines such conduct more narrowly, describing the grounds for misconduct as “engaging in, attempting to engage in, or soliciting another to engage in a homosexual act or acts, a statement by a Service member that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect, or marriage or attempted marriage to a person known to be of the same biological sex.” While the terms haven’t been radically overhauled, the narrower definition could make it more difficult for investigations to be initiated.

Other points of interest: the Pentagon now requires that “a preponderance” of evidence be provided to warrant a dismissal. Investigators can no longer use a service member’s decision “not to discuss the matter” against him or her. And investigators are also now expected to consider the source of evidence against a service member and the circumstances in which it’s received. For instance, a source may be considered unreliable if he or she has a “prior history of conflict” with target of the investigation or “a motive to seek revenge against or cause personal or professional harm” to the service member in question.

To read the full text of the new DADT policy—with all the revisions tracked and marked in red—click here.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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