APA Calls for Removal of the Military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy

Emma Hitt, PhD

February 02, 2010

February 2, 2010 — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is calling for the US military to abandon the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allows sexual orientation to be used as areason to dismiss individuals from the US Armed Services.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was adopted during the Clinton administration as a way of compromising on a complete ban on gays and lesbians in the military. According to the Service Members Legal Defense Network, 14,000 military service members have been forced out of service because of the policy.

“The US should repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allow capable men and women to serve without regard to sexual orientation,” noted APA President Alan F. Schatzberg, MD. The APA Board of Trustees has voted to urge abandonment of the policy.

President Barack Obama has stated his opposition to the law that keeps openly gay people from serving in the US military. Today’s APA statement accompanies a US Senate Armed Services Committee meeting to take place today that will begin the process to lift the ban. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the committee.

Adm Mullen told the US Senate that allowing openly gay personnel to serve was "the right thing to do." He added that it was his opinion only but that he was concerned about a policy that forces people to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

“As I understand the political situation, this is the first time that a sitting member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is actually coming out in favor of reversal,” said Jack Drescher, MD, distinguished fellow of the APA and a past chair (2000-2006) of the APA’s Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues.

“This is a good thing,” Dr. Drescher said. “This is consistent with policies that we believe in that we do not serve the mental health of our fighting forces by forcing those to hide the truth of who they are.” He noted that the APA has opposed discrimination in the US Armed Services since 1990, when the first position statement came out.


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