With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” scheduled to take effect on Sept. 20, the U.S. military is expecting many of the service members discharged because of their sexual orientation to seek reenlistment.
By some estimates, hundreds of the more than 13,000 service members discharged under the policy that took effect in 1993, have contacted recruiters or advocacy groups indicating they want to rejoin the military, drawn by a life they miss or stable pay and benefits they could not find in civilian life, reported The New York Times.
Though the Pentagon says it will welcome their applications, former service members discharged for homosexuality will not be granted special treatment. They will have to pass physical fitness tests and prove that they have skills the armed services need right now. Some will have aged to the point that they will need waivers to get back in.
Even if they pass those hurdles, there is no guarantee that they will go back to their former jobs or ranks. And because the armed services are beginning to shrink, some will be rejected because there are no available slots.
People discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” who wish to return to service “will be evaluated according to the same criteria and requirements applicable to all others seeking re-entry into the military,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” closes the chapter on a policy “that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” said President Barack Obama, who, on July 22, formally signed the certification that repeals the 17-year-old ban.
But even after the policy is repealed, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will still prevent the spouses and partners of gay service members from receiving benefits available to to heterosexual couples.
President Obama has said he supports the repeal of DOMA, and has endorsed the Respect For Marriage Act — the bill that would repeal DOMA.