President Obama and Pentagon Certify ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal


Above, Obama signs DADT certification. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

This afternoon, President Obama and the Service Chiefs of the U.S. Military certified repeal of the military's 18-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Following a 60-day waiting period, implementation of the repeal will take place.

Here's the President's statement on the certification:

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011. 

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country.  Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen released the following statement:

"I believe the U.S. armed forces are ready for the implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  I conveyed that opinion yesterday to the President and to the secretary of defense, and today we certified this to Congress. 

"My opinion is informed by close consultation with the service chiefs and the combatant commanders over the course of six months of thorough preparation and assessment, to include the training of a substantial majority of our troops. 

"I am comfortable that we have used the findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group to mitigate areas of concern and that we have developed the policy and regulations necessary for implementation — consistent with standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention. 

"Certification does not mark the end of our work.  Ready though we are, we owe it to ourselves and to the nation we defend to continue to train the remainder of the joint force, to monitor our performance as we do so, and to adjust policy where and when needed. 

"My confidence in our ability to accomplish this work rests primarily on the fact that our people are capable, well-led and thoroughly professional.  I have never served with finer men and women.  They will, I am certain, carry out repeal and continue to serve this country with the same high standards and dignity that have defined the U.S. military throughout our history." 

LeonPanetta Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released the following statement:

"Last December, this department began a careful and methodical process to prepare for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell. 

"Since then, the Repeal Implementation Team has worked to coordinate the necessary changes to policy and regulations, and to provide education and training to service members.  This effort, led by Undersecretary of Defense Clifford R. Stanley, was designed to ensure the smoothest possible transition for the U.S. military to accommodate and implement this important and necessary change. 

"Today, as a result of strong leadership and proactive education throughout the force, we can take the next step in this process.  The President, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I have certified that the implementation of repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces.  This certification decision was carefully made after receiving input from the service chiefs, service secretaries and from all the combatant commanders, who stated their views that the force is prepared for this change. 

"With this certification, and in accordance with the law, on Sept. 20, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will be repealed.  We will have taken the time necessary to get this done right and to ensure that service members are properly trained for a change that I believe is essential to the effectiveness of our all-volunteer force. 

"All men and women who serve this nation in uniform — no matter their race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation — do so with great dignity, bravery, and dedication.  As secretary of defense, I am committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social, or institutional barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant.  They put their lives on the line for America, and that's what really matters.  Thanks to the professionalism and leadership of the U.S. military, we are closer to achieving the goal that is at the foundation of America — equality and dignity for all."




Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, hailed certification but warned that equality still needs to be achieved:

“Every service member deserves equal respect in the work environment. Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was necessary, but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. It’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination,” said Sarvis.

Sarvis said that SLDN will continue the fight for full equality for LGB troops who are serving today, as well as for those qualified Americans who wish to join.

“The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal. At SLDN, we will represent and defend those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork,” said Sarvis.



Said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.": 

"Today, gay and lesbian servicemembers can and will breath a huge sigh of relief. While we still must wait 60 days for this change to formally take effect and for the law to officially be off the books, this step is nothing short of historic. This is the final nail in the coffin for the discriminatory, outdated, and harmful 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law. All servicemembers, the U.S. military, and the nation will be better off as a result of this long overdue change in policy."


Outserve Said “JD Smith,” OutServe’s active-duty co-director, who is identified by a pseudonym while “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still in effect:

“This is a welcome step, and reflects what our members are saying, that the military is ready to move beyond ‘DADT’. In 60 days, my life and the lives of thousands of other gay and lesbian troops changes. I cannot be more proud to be able to serve during this time." 

Added OutServe spokesperson and combat vet Jonathan Hopkins:

"This day has been a long time in coming. Soon, we will see that gay and lesbian troops demonstrate the same professionalism that is the hallmark of our armed forces, and that all military personnel will prove more professional than some have given them credit for. Through our work with the Pentagon, we are confident they have worked hard to devise smart policies as we move forward. As we move forward, what matters most is leadership."

Following is the actual certification letter signed by Obama, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen.



  1. BobN says

    They’re clearly unaccustomed to talking about it, but they sure seem to get the point about equality. It’ll be interesting to watch the GOP “hawks” as they slowly realize that the military brass in now on the side of gay service members.

  2. pedro says

    Gracias a Dios, this will have far reaching effects. I’ve always believed that the repeal of DADT would be the beginning of the end of legalized bigotry against gays and lesbians. (I predict DADt repeal will probably bring down DOMA.) In just the same way that desegregation of the military heralded the black civil rights movement and the end of legalized discrimination against black Americans. It’s a great day. Of course September 20 will be even better. ¡Felicidades a todos los soldados gays!

  3. Thomasina says

    This is typical Obama–paying lip-service to LGBT causes but doing nothing to act on his…wait a minute!

    Seriously, this is great news for our country.

  4. TampaZeke says

    Jesus fuckin Christ, you would think that they were being asked to integrate aliens from another planet into the military with all this talk of how they’ll be able to implement this difficult transition and suffer through it because of the super duper high quality and resilience of our men and women in uniform.

    It’s really insulting to have them act as if it THEY who are the ones making a big sacrifice and it’s THEM who are being professional and wonderful when its GAY service members who have actually been making the sacrifices and who have had to act most professional and above reproach.

    Let’s get our facts “straight” here before we add insult to injury to gay and lesbian troops.

  5. Zlick says

    I’m very happy about this. I admit to being a bit disappointed IF this moots the 9th Circuit Court case (which I’m sure caused the sudden rush to certify). The court case, if it stands, would hasten the demise of DOMA (via judicial precedent) far faster than the procedural repeal of DADT ever could. Still, I can’t complaint too heartily. This Is Awesome!

  6. says

    Dudes, no other European country had to go through this pretence to implement equality in their armies.
    What’s with USA straights that they have to have “transition counselling” before they can serve in the military beside their brothers ?
    Well done, Mr.Obama, but can we have more decisive actions and less compromise with the extreme right ?

  7. BABH says

    Jack: Nothing wrong with US straights in the military. Like everyone else under 40, they’re cool with gay people. But the octagenarians in Congress needed mollifying. We accommodated them a little, in order to win sooner.

  8. BABH says

    Zlick: I think we can set our sights higher – legislative repeal of the worst sections of DOMA, court or legislative repeal of the rest later.

  9. corvidae says

    @JACKFKNTWIST It serves obama’s image as bipartisan to put the concerns of the right, as foolish as they are at the forefront of the process of giving use what we want.
    It doesn’t make everyone happy, but, at least he’s trying.
    I live in the UK, my dad was a soldier. I tell you this, because when I told him that in the USA gay people couldn’t serve in the military, he thought I was joking.
    A step in the right direction to be sure.

  10. Artie Rimbaud says

    Good news, obviously, and no discharges during the 60-day waiting period. I notice, however, that some commenters have been questioning whether the certification date might have been influenced by the Log Cabin Republicans court case.

    I’m sure that question is being asked in good faith, but the congressional record from April 1st answers that question. Pentagon officials testified before a House of Representatives panel on April 1st and told them that certification was expected by “mid-summer”:

    That turned out to be an accurate estimate, and no one could possibly have known on April 1st what the course of the LCR court case would be and what the rulings would be. From the April 1st House testimony, it seems as though the Pentagon and the Obama administration were acting in good faith concerning the calendar for implementation and certification, rather than reacting to the LCR court case at the last minute.

  11. Abel says

    Great news, certainly. I know plenty of servicemen who serve with gays and don’t think anything of it. Yes, we had to placate such idiots as John McCain, farting away on the wrong side of history, as usual. Yes, there will be a few servicemen with “issues” who have been brought up “Biblically” and don’t know their arses from their elbows. But it’s done and now let’s get on with it.

    Now, what happens with the GOPROUD suit, I wonder? I kind of hope it goes ahead, if only to let the court declare DADT unconstitutional once and for all, so some idiot politician doesn’t try to re-instate it.

    I suspect we’ll hear from that TAX CHEATER, Elaine Donnelly, any minute now. The haters are still out there and they’ll start fulminating shortly.

  12. Mark says

    It’s certainly great news but I don’t recall countries like Great Britain, Canada, Australia having a long “certification” process for allowing gays to serve openly in their militaries. When are we going to stop appeasing the bigots in this country? It’s sickening.

  13. Ned Flaherty says

    • 14,317 people were discharged under DADT (November 1993 – July 2011).
    • 78,000 bisexuals, lesbians, and gays are serving in the U.S. military today.
    • Millions served successfully through the 20th and 21st centuries.
    • 41 other nations also allow open military service, regardless of sexual orientation.

  14. Ned Flaherty says

    • 14,317 people were discharged under DADT (November 1993 – July 2011).
    • 78,000 bisexuals, lesbians, and gays are serving in the U.S. military today.
    • Millions served successfully through the 20th and 21st centuries.
    • 41 other nations also allow open military service, regardless of sexual orientation.

  15. Chris says

    20 years ago we in Canada aloowed open service for gays and lesbians. An old friend of mine for college was a Lt Commander in the Canadian navy with his own ship. I asked him if this was going to be a problem. He told me they had policies around fraternization and harassment from when women were accepted in combat roles 10 years ago and all they did was rewrite them to be gender neutral. Welcome to the late 20th century.

  16. robert in nyc says

    And if a republican had been in the White House, this would NEVER have happened considering that the majority in the GOP voted against repeal. All of those Log Cabiners, GOProuders should ask themselves, exactly what are any of the GOP candidates going to do for LGBT people if they win the election next year? Name one piece of legislation they will introduce? If that happens, kiss repeal of DOMA goodbye.

  17. will says

    Great news. I’ve been deployed for six months now, and am about to come home. Come home to see my boyfriend waiting for me at the airport out in the open instead of having to meet him behind closed doors. And I can’t freakin wait.

  18. Jim says

    I know we wish that Obama was a more outspoken “fierce advocate” for our LGBT causes, but I get a little angry with some activists who want him to be so out there. He IS on our side, whether some think so or not, it’s just that he is treading through shark-filled political waters. He, and many others, DID this! No matter how frustrated we are with him, he DID this! And he is endorsing the repeal of DOMA! Can we IMAGINE George W. Bush doing ANYTHING in the realm of this? No way in hell. We need to think about this before we go crucifying Obama on our LGBT issues. He IS on our side!

  19. Gianpiero says

    That is an amazing document when you pause to think about it. Thanks for posting it, Andy. An enormously significant point in the history of equality for gay people in this country.

  20. Bill Perdue says

    DADT repeal does very little except end the bigotry imposed by Bill Clinton, Democrat and bigot.

    It has no effect on the central threat to soldiers which comes from Obama’s growing number of aggressive wars against peoples unable to defend themselves. GI’s often themselves fall victim to the fighting. Over 5000 GIs have been murdered by US aggression and over 30,000 wounded, about half very badly. Thousands more have been driven to suicide. The carnage among unarmed Arab/muslim civilians in these killing fields is twenty times worse.

    Secondly, repeal does nothing to end the iron grip of the bigoted christer officer class who do much of the promotion and organization of anti-LGBT violence, harassment and murder. Repeal is good but it’s not the same as a solution, which is bring all the troops home now, convene an International War Crimes Tribunal to investigate the many war crimes of Obama, the Clintons and the Bushes and to organize courts martial for all anti-GLBT christian officers.

    Democrats are Republicans in drag. On November 6th, 2012 vote for the left, vote against Democrats, vote socialist, vote against Republicans or simply sit it out.

    Our energies should be focused on building a mass movement with an open ended campaign of mass actions to compel them to make our agenda a reality.

    Those who advocate voting for Democrats or Republicans are not doing anything for LGBT equality and liberation.

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