Inaugural Speech Holds Implications for DADT

President Obama’s second inaugural speech rang with a call for gay rights. And he celebrated the past “through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.”  

AB 1505 (which Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed into law) mandates that if the federal government reinstates benefits to discharged veterans who were denied benefits solely on the basis of sexual orientation, they will thenceforth receive California benefits.

Women accounted for 15 percent of all active-duty and reserve members of the military but made up more than a third of the 619 people discharged in 2008 because of their sexual orientation.

The disparity was particularly striking in the Air Force, where women represented 20 percent of personnel but 61 percent of those expelled in that year.

According to Department of Defense data, over 32,000 service members were separated under “don’t ask, don’t tell” — Public Law 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654) — and its predecessor policies between 1980 and 2011. Instituted in 1993, DADT generally prohibited anyone who had sexual, bodily or romantic contact with a person of the same sex from serving in the armed forces of the United States, and prohibited any homosexual or bisexual from disclosing his or her sexual orientation.

DADT also specified that if a gay or bisexual service member hid their sexual orientation, commanders were not allowed to investigate their sexuality.

Involuntarily separated veterans from the military under DADT had a discharge that was characterized as “dishonorable” or “other than honorable” and were/are ineligible to receive federal and state veterans’ benefits.

Whereas, until well into the 1990s, when people talked about the civil rights of gays in uniform, the names of those whose court cases would be most frequently cited were Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, Miriam Ben-Shalom and Ens. James Woodward, Lt. “Jay” Hatheway and, within a few years, Perry Watkins, according to Conduct Unbecoming by Randy Shilts, St. Martin’s Press (1993). Therefore be it resolved that the Senate of the Associated Students of UCSD entreats the legislative and judiciary branches of the federal government to join President Barack Obama in fully recognizing the injustice of denying federal veterans’ benefits to those gays and lesbians who were involuntarily discharged and so will change “thenceforth” to “henceforth” on our journey.

— Richard Thompson
Alumnus ‘83