Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a set of policies, laws, and regulations governing how the U.S. military dealt with gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. Previously, under 10 U.S.C. § 654, homosexual members of the armed forces would be separated from other members if that member engaged in homosexual acts, or stated that they were homosexual, or attempted to marry another person of the same sex. This resulted in homosexuals being banned from serving in the military. In 1993, the Clinton administration signed into law a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy whereby individuals were not required to disclose their sexuality and military officials would not investigate. However, when a service member's orientation was made public, either intentionally or inadvertently, they would still be subject to discharge under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” 

In 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was formally repealed by the Obama administration under Pub. L. 111–321. Under the current policy, individuals can serve openly in the U.S. military and are not barred from promotions, or face a discharge on the basis of their sexual orientation.

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team