Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday that the Pentagon will make it more difficult to discharge openly gay or lesbian members of the military.
The changes to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy includes increasing the standard of evidence required in cases so that most hearsay and “malicious outings” will no longer be allowed to show that a service member is gay and mandating that third party evidence be presented under oath.
In addition, the rank of officer accountable for determining whether to initiate action against a member of the military will be raised to general or flag officer.
“These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law, including the need for consistence, oversight and clear standards,” Gates said.
“I believe these changes represent an important improvement in the way the current law is put into practice — above all, by providing a greater measure of common sense and common decency to a process for handling what are difficult and complex issues for all involved.”
The military services have 30 days to conform their regulations to the changes. The new policies, however, took effect immediately upon Gates’ announcement, meaning that they apply to all open cases, according to a Pentagon briefing.
They changes are considered a first step toward President Obama’s call to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
An act of Congress is needed for a full repeal of the law and, and there are bills currently pending in both the House and Senate to end the ban on openly gay service members.