Letter of the Law

Posted in Uncategorized by wtravisumd on April 26, 2010

I realize there might be some confusion about what exactly Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is. So I’m going to provide some basic facts about DADT and then I’m going to post the U. S. Army Homosexual Conduct Policy (HCP) so that everyone here can read it for themselves and know that they understand it.

DADT is formally entitled: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass.  HCP draws its authority from Title 10 United States Code (USC) 654, Department of Defense (DOD) Policy, and Army Regulation (AR) 600-20.

Every soldier is familiarized with HCP upon initial entry into the Army. While no soldier is supposed to be asked about their sexual orientation, they are required to initial a document that states they are aware of HCP and that they can be discharged for violating it. I’ll try to find that document later and then update this post.

The U. S. Army Homosexual Conduct Policy:

U. S. Army
Homosexual Conduct Policy
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,
Don’t Harass

U. S. Army
Homosexual Conduct Policy

Implements 10 U.S. Code § 654

Implements DoD Policy

AR 600-20, chapter 4-19

Army policy is a balance between the legal prohibition of homosexual conduct and the privacy rights of soldiers

What does the Law Say?

“The presence in the Armed Forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

10 U.S.C. § 654

The Law and Army Policy in Everyday Language

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Homosexual Conduct is:

Admission of homosexuality

Committing a homosexual act

Marrying or attempting to marry a person of same sex

Train the Force




What Does ‘Don’t Ask” Mean?

Applicants for enlistment will not be asked nor required to reveal their sexual orientation.

Applicants for enlistment will not be asked if they have engaged in homosexual conduct.

While on active duty, soldiers will not be asked about their sexual orientation or conduct unless there is credible information of homosexual conduct.

What Does “Don’t Tell” Mean?

“Don’t Tell” is the opposite side of the coin from “Don’t Ask.”

Soldiers should not disclose or discuss their sexual orientation or conduct.

If a soldier admits to being homosexual, the commander will begin the process to determine if credible information exists which would warrant separation.

What is Credible Information?

A statement by a reliable person that a soldier has:

engaged or solicited to engage in a homosexual act

heard the soldier state that he or she was homosexual

heard the soldier state that he she had married or attempted to marry a member of the same sex.

A statement by a reliable person that they had observed a soldier admitting to or engaging in homosexual conduct.

What Is Not Credible Information?

Rumors that a soldier is homosexual

Others opinions that a soldier is homosexual

Going to a homosexual bar, reading homosexual publications, associating with known homosexuals or marching in homosexual rights rallies in civilian clothes

Reports of being harassed shall not by itself constitute credible information justifying the initiation of an investigation.

What are Grounds for Investigation?

Credible information must exist.

A commander must have a reasonable belief that a soldier has:

Engaged or solicited to engage in a homosexual act

Stated that he or she is a homosexual or otherwise indicated a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct

Married or attempted to marry a person of the same sex

Substantial Investigation

The initiation of any substantial investigation into whether an admission of homosexuality was made for the purpose of seeking separation from the Army and/or determining whether recoupment of financial benefits is warranted must be approved at the Army Secretariat level.

Definition of substantial investigation: An investigation that extends beyond questioning the member, individuals suggested by the member for interview and the member’s immediate chain of command.

DoD Directed Policy Changes

Installation Judge Advocates will consult senior legal officers at a higher HQ prior to the initiation of an investigation.

Initiation of substantial investigations into admission of homosexuality for the purpose of separation will be made at the secretarial level.

The IG will inspect homosexual conduct policy training.

Zero Tolerance for Harassment

Definition: Derogatory, persistent, threatening or annoying behavior directed toward an individual or group.

Possible types of harassment

Verbal (on or off duty)

Jody calls regarding homosexuals

Derogatory language or references about homosexuals

Graffiti in latrines, bulletin boards, etc.

Anonymous threats; telephonic, electronic, etc.

What Can a Soldier Do If Threatened, Harassed or Accused of Being Homosexual?

Report harassment at once to the commander

Commanders will take appropriate action to protect the safety of soldiers who report threats or harassment.

Who Can a Soldier Talk with Confidentially?

Legal Assistance Attorney



The challenge to all soldiers is to comply with the law that prohibits homosexual conduct while at the same time respecting the privacy and dignity of every soldier.


4 Responses

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  1. mchambe2 said, on April 27, 2010 at 12:50 am

    I found this post so helpful. It really put DADT into readable, understandable terms. I feel like an ass since I intern at the HRC and I’m supposed to be so knowledgeable and gun-ho about it. I do believe in repealing DADT, but i’ll admit that I never really got into the nitty-gritty of its details… so i thank you for that. There really are two sides to the HRC… the foundation, where i intern, which focuses on public education and outreach; and the campaign which focuses intently on legislation, so my excuse is that I’m wrapped up in the foundation. BACK to your post however!

    In another LGBT class we discussed this term: Homosocial, which is characterized as extreme bonding with the same-sex, and how it is at once demanded and required yet incredibly unattainable as seen as the military and sports.

    Homosocial is incredibly linked to DADT. it’s asking for the same thing… an extreme connection that boarders on the erotic yet is extremely grounded in heteronormativity. what the f gives.

  2. Becca said, on April 27, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I am a peer dialogue leader for on campus organization called Common Ground. Commons Ground is an opportunity for members of the campus community to engage in dialogue about hot-button issues. These may include abortion, gay marriage, racial profiling, intentional methods for admission to universities, etc. As a peer dialogue leader, I just led a four session dialogue group on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. These dialogue groups are not for people to argue and debate, but rather to listen and learn from one another. Within the group that I led, people brought up many different factors that surround DADT.

    – Are there really implications for the “don’t ask” side of things? I know that technically that is a part of the policy, but we questioned if it was held as strictly.

    – Many students wondered if it was the responsibility of the military or society to make changes first. Some argued that when rules are made, people follow and soon catch on. Others felt that until America was more ready, changes to the military policy could be profoundly detrimental. I found myself frustrated, feeling that we are in a state of denial and that these same unfounded arguments could be made about racial issues fifty or sixty years ago.

    – People also discussed the idea of safety. Yes, DODT does prohibit many individuals from full expression, but what consequences might occur if things were changed? The policy was technically started because of individuals being harassed, no?

    – One part of the dialogue that stood out was when other issues were discussed such as transgenderism. “Ew!” some people exclaimed. how would we deal with people that were born with a penis and a vagina? Most members of the group nodded until I stopped them and explained that hemaphroditism and transgenderism were completely different entities. This definitely opened up my eyes to how many people have false or distorted perceptions of many queer issues.

    • wtravisumd said, on April 28, 2010 at 1:41 pm

      1. From what I’ve seen (and I can’t make the point that this is purely anecdotal) Don’t Ask is really a non-issue. Only a few people seem to care about whether a soldier is homosexual/gay. Most soldier are more interested if you can pull your own weight and back up your buddy. Of those that care, DADT is not at the front of their mind when they meet a new soldier, so they won’t just ask someone if they’re homosexual.

      2. Relating DADT to Army desegregation under Truman is the exact way to approach this issue.

      3. Safety (actually probably acceptance) is going to be an issue with the repeal of DADT. Homosexual soldiers who chose to come out to their units may/ absolutely will face some sort of stigmatization if not out right discrimination. This will eventually subside, but initially things will not be all rosy.

      4. Transgender people are not usually covered under DADT for a plethora of reasons. Foremost though, a person born with penis and vagina or any combination of sexual organs is barred from entering the Armed Forces under medical reasoning. This would not change with a repeal of DADT.

      Please don’t take this as official word. This is all my opinion as an observer who is closer to the topic than others.

  3. sarah said, on May 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks a lot for posting these facts about DADT and the HC Policy. I think even the name of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” shows the problem with these issues. Silence is what binds us. Silence about injustice is what hurts us the most. I think what lacks in this policy is accountability. Who decides and defines what is homosexual? And what if the commander himself is prejudiced against homosexuality? Who is accountable for him? One thing I noticed was the people they listed for confidentiality. They listed three people: legal attorney or chaplain. This is very limited. They should provide counselors for all the men and specifically those being harassed.
    I loved one of the students observations that “Homosocial is incredibly linked to DADT. it’s asking for the same thing… an extreme connection that borders on the erotic yet is extremely grounded in heteronormativity.” I never saw it this way before, couldn’t have said it better.

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