WASHINGTON (CBSMiami.com) – After 17 years, the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” program that forced gays and lesbians to stay in the closet in order to serve in the military will end Tuesday.
The program was originally a political compromise that didn’t please either side. It was originally enacted under former President Bill Clinton. The measure forbade recruiters from asking about a recruits sexuality, or officers investigating a soldier’s sexuality without credible evidence.
Richard Maggiore, who served in the Army in the 1960’s, said it will help recruitment and retention rates.
“They did a survey of 115,000 troops and 70 percent said the repeal should take place,” Maggiore said.
The Defense Department said Monday that the military is ready for the change. In addition, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that nearly all service members have taken the training needed with the law’s repeal.
The Defense Department said Monday that recruiters are currently accepting applications from openly gay and lesbian applicants. Still, some changes in how the repeal will be implemented will have to wait until after the law takes effect.
“No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. “The force is well aware that this is coming. They’ve had the training. It’s been in the press for months. The September 20th day is not a mystery.”
Defense Secretary Panetta along with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen will be holding a Tuesday afternoon news conference to discuss in more detail the changes that will take effect.
Since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted, more than 14,000 service members have been discharged from the military.
One of those troops was Mark Lafonatine.
“I was following the rules and I was outed,” Lafonatine said.
While he was forced out of the service because he was gay, he said the policy did some good.
“The actual policy shed a light on atrocities going on like hard labor and false imprisonment,” Lafonatine said.
Advocates say that now that with the ending of the policy, there should be a wave of re-enlistments and a reversal of dishonorable discharges.