During the Bush administration and earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates explained that the Department of Defense had not reconsidered the value of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because the ongoing wars absorb too much time and focus. Now, with many GLBT activists complaining that Obama is "all talk and no action," Gates has apparently modified his stance.
During a recent press conference (see transcript) Gates stated that the DoD is studying DADT to determine the amount of "flexibility" or discretion the military can exercise when enforcing the rule. In particular, Gates stated that lawyers are considering whether DoD can decline to discharge a servicemember who is "outed by a third party," including a person motivated by "vengeance," "blackmail" or "jilted" feelings. Gates describes this approach as more "humane."
More humane? In this setting, "more humane" sounds like a "little pregnant." Certainly, it is unfair to punish persons who do not reveal their sexual orientation to military officials. These individuals are indeed following the rule because they did not "tell" military officials about their sexual orientation. Nevertheless, DADT is fundamentally unfair because it treats gay or lesbian status as something that is socially harmful, undesirable and inherently inconsistent with military service. Creating an exception for third-party outings will not undo the policy's discriminatory -- or inhumane -- nature. Also, this exception would reinforce the troubling notion that "coming out" is problematic or that gays and lesbians are better seen, rather than heard.
Nevertheless, if involuntarily outed individuals can remain in the military without causing discord or eroding troop morale (the typical arguments in favor of DADT), then people who come out voluntarily can also serve without ill effect (see Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan for similar logic from Supreme Court). Accordingly, creating this exception would undermine a basic argument for DADT, which in turn would boost arguments calling for its invalidation.
Question: Who is advising the Obama administration on gay rights issues? I only ask because the "humane" proposal to have mercy on the helpless involuntarily outed people probably will not help to improve Obama's reputation within the GLBT activist community.