Local ex-Navy sailor Joseph Rocha, one of the major players in the movement to allow gays to serve in the military, told us last year that he wants to return to service despite horrific experiences that were confirmed by an investigation. Will he and others be able to do so now that don't-ask-don't-tell is virtually dead? Slate says the answer is: "probably." But it will be complicated.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Come Back?
Congress voted to repeal DADT. Can gay soldiers who were discharged under the old rules re-enlist?
By Brian Palmer
Dec. 20, 2010
Lieutenant Dan Choi who was dismissed from the US Army for 'being openly gay'.Dan ChoiThe Senate voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on Saturday after weeks of wrangling. More than 13,000 service members have been fired since that rule came into effect in 1993. Can those people re-enlist?
Probably. For the past 17 years, service members discharged for homosexual conduct have been permanently barred from the military, even if they swore that their sexual preference had changed. During that time, Congress has considered several bills to repeal DADT, many of which would have explicitly permitted discharged service members to rejoin. (The process is technically called reaccession.) In the end, the bare-bones legislation that Congress is about to send to the president punts the re-enlistment issue to the Pentagon. We don't yet know for sure how the secretary of defense will handle the discharged soldiers, but the military's November report (PDF) supporting repeal recommended that they be permitted to come back. Secretary Gates commissioned the report and has so far endorsed its findings.
Any plan to take back dismissed soldiers may run into snags with the paperwork. Most gay people released under DADT received what's called an involuntary honorable discharge, which also applies to personnel with mental health problems or parental duties that preclude military service. Those who receive an involuntary honorable discharge are usually assigned the RE-4 re-enlistment code, which means they're not allowed to come back.
It's not clear how the Pentagon is going to work around this bureaucratic problem...