Did DADT Pave The Way for Gays to Serve Openly?

by Jonathan Bernstein | December 28, 2010

Steve Benen has a fine item ridiculing the “shower issue” when it comes to DADT repeal implementation. He's right of course; the people pushing this stuff are dead-enders, and this fight is over (most likely explanation: there's still money to be made by doing one more round of scare stories/fundraising pitches; the fight is over, but that doesn't mean easily-duped donors know that, and the people who make a living parting them from their money aren't going to tell them). 

Anyway, Benen refers to DADT as a 17 year policy, but of course DADT was a replacement for an absolute ban an gays and lesbians in the military. Bill Clinton had pledged to repeal that ban when he was running for president in 1992, and DADT was adopted as part of his defeat on that issue.

I think generally liberals believe, and believed at the time, that the fight in 1993 was a total defeat. As it turned out, the implementation of DADT, if I recall correctly, resulted in a much more aggressive effort to drive gays and lesbians out of the armed forces; in other words, for actual gay and lesbian troops, things got worse. But Bill Clinton presented the new policy as a compromise, and I'm not entirely sure he was wrong. 

So here's my question: did the shift from the ban to DADT help the fight to achieve the original goal of ending the ban? Putting aside the issue of implementation (for which I don't think those affected can forgive Bill Clinton, unless I have the facts of the situation wrong), and assuming that the votes just weren't there in 1993 for Clinton to win on the issue, was accepting DADT better than just continuing the status quo? I think there's a case to be made, but I'm really not sure...I can see a case that it made no difference, or a case that it was worse than nothing. Anyone have an argument one way or another?

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-cohn/80567/did-dadt-pave-the-way-gays-serve-openly