When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was implemented in 1993, it changed the rules for homosexuals already serving in the military. What could have been an administrative discharge turned into a court martial offense.
One East Texas man knows that all too well, as he was the first person to face a court martial under the controversial law.
Troy Carlyle was in his late twenties, and serving in the Air Force when Bill Clinton was elected president. He says that's also the time that his superiors began to suspect that he was gay.
"When Clinton announced that the gays and lesbians were going to be allowed in the military, I almost sighed a sigh of relief, because it seemed like perfect timing," Carlyle said. "And it really seemed like a slap in the face when that turned into "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
That slap in the face came in the form of a court summons. Carlyle was to be court martialed.
"I'll never forget this feeling of betrayal when the paperwork that I'm reading that says, "you are summoned to appear at your own court martial," Carlyle said. "It was by order of the President of the United States."
Carlyle faced up to nine years in prison, but in the end, was given a dishonorable discharge after nine years of service. He wrote a book detailing the experience.
Fast forward to last week, when President Obama announced his intent to repeal the law.
Carlyle says he was glad to hear it, and also weighed in on one of critic's main arguments for leaving the law as is.
"The arguments against black people being able to serve are very much the same as those against gay people being able to serve," Carlyle said. "They said that if we allow blacks in the military, it will destroy unit cohesion, it will destroy morale, what will happen in the showers...it's the exact same arguments against the gays."
And if the law is repealed, Carlyle says the transition will be a smooth one.
"We've already integrated. It's already happened," Carlyle said. "So as far as how we phase it in, there's no phasing. All we have to do is stop persecuting and stop prosecuting."
A 2009 nationwide Gallup poll showed 69% of adults in favor of allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military, up 6% from 2004.
The biggest gains in that poll came in some surprising areas: conservatives, Republicans, and people who said they attend church weekly, are all more favorable on the subject than they were five years ago.
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