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Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military

Aaron Belkin and Geoffrey Bateman, editors
Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military
ISBN: 978-1-58826-121-2
ISBN: 978-1-58826-146-5
2003/201 pages/LC: 2002031836

"Presents some of the most insightful discussions of the complex issues surrounding the topic of gays in the military available. The editors combine discussions of research, policy perspectives and opinions, and personal narratives into a coherent and timely contribution."—Chris Bourg, Contemporary Sociology

"A major contribution to the debate about Don't Ask, Don't Tell.... I give [it] my highest recommendation and would encourage everyone interested in the issue of gays in the military, as well as those who are concerned about broader social issues of equality, to read it."—James W. Gilliam, Jr., Journal of Homosexuality

"A unique and important contribution."—Lynne Gouliquer, Women's Review of Books

"A definitive, edited volume of lively debate.... This new and unprecedented anthology ... breaks new ground on U.S. military readiness in a time of war.... Brings together a critical mass of experts of different points of view to debate whether the U.S. military's gay ban is based on military necessity or prejudice."—Stonewall News Northwest

"[This] book has something for almost every reader-a brief history of gays in the military, serious reasoned commentary on the topic, and heartfelt personal testimonials. All in all it is a good read on an increasingly important and relevant topic."—Juanita M. Firestone, Journal of Political and Military Sociology

"An important contribution to the literature on lesbians and gays in the U.S. military.... From beginning to end, it is well-written, well-organized, and tightly conceived in every way."—Craig A. Rimmerman, Hobart and William Smith Colleges


Conservatives and liberals agree that President Bill Clinton's effort to lift the military's gay ban was perhaps one of the greatest blunders of his tenure in office. Conservatives argue that Clinton should have left well enough alone; liberals believe that he should have ordered the military to accept homosexuals rather than agreeing to the compromise "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In this ground-breaking book, experts of both persuasions come together to debate the critical aspects of the gays-in-the-military issue.

The participants consider whether homosexuals undermine military performance; whether they threaten heterosexual privacy; and whether the experiences of militaries in other countries have relevance for the United States. They also explore the human, organizational, and dollar costs of the present policy. Belkin and Bateman provide a thorough context for the transcripts of the deliberations, as well as a discussion of the implications of the participants' conclusions for current U.S. policy.

The project participants: Aaron Belkin, Christopher Dandeker (UK), Michael C. Desch, Lynn Eden, Avner Even-Zohar (Israel), Paul Gade, Bronwen Grey (Australia), Timothy J. Haggerty, Melissa Sheridan Embser-Herbert, Steve Johnston (UK), Lawrence J. Korb, Robert MacCoun, Steve May, Diane H. Mazur, Laura Miller, Deborah Mulliss (New Zealand), Rob Nunn (UK), C. Dixon Osburn, David Segal, Mady Segal, John Allen Williams.


Aaron Belkin is associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University. He is coeditor of Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World PoliticsGeoffrey Bateman is associate professor of peace and justice studies at Regis University.


  • Introduction—the Editors.
  • History Repeating Itself: A Historical Overview of Gay Men and Lesbians in the Military Before "Dont' Ask, Don't Tell"—Timothy Haggerty.
  • "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": Does the Gay Ban Preserve Soldiers' Privacy?
  • Does "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Preserve Unit Cohesion?
  • Are Foreign Military Experiences Relevant to the United States?
  • What Does "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Cost?
  • Openly Gay Service Members Tell Their Stories: Steve May and Rob Nunn.
  • What Have We Learned? The Future of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
  • Appendix: The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Law.