Clinton Statements on Homosexuals in Military Re-Ignite 1993 Controversy

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - The recent declaration by the First Lady and later by President Clinton that a 1993 policy that allegedly permits homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation to themselves is a failure, has thrown the Pentagon on the defensive and is causing confusion among policymakers and the media.

"It's a fiction to say 'the law' was passed in 1993 to make it easier for homosexuals to serve in the military," Elaine Donnelly, director of the Center for Military Readiness, told "Anybody who would say that is forgetting the enormous uproar that occurred at the time the president announced he was going to try to do it by executive order.

"There was so much opposition that it became very clear that was the wrong direction to go. There is no way Congress would have passed a law to accommodate homosexuals in the military," Donnelly said.

Meanwhile Clinton's national security advisor and Pentagon officials said steps already are underway to bring the policy closer to its original intent - to allow gay soldiers to remain on duty without being persecuted.

Defense Secretary William Cohen "has issued new rules and regulations to bring it back in line with its original intent," Sandy Berger said on Fox News Sunday.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told a press conference the Pentagon is fine-tuning its policy. The Pentagon has developed new training guidelines that are expected to be issued very shortly, he said.

In 1993, the nation was outraged by President Clinton's plans to unilaterally repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military. In response, Clinton established a working group to come up with a compromise acceptable to him and to homosexual campaign contributors and activists who participated in the process.

The compromise, which would have allowed homosexuals to serve in the military only if they did not reveal their homosexuality, was dubbed "don't ask, don't tell."

Ultimately, Congress rejected "don't ask, don't tell" -- and decided to codify the Defense Department's homosexual exclusion regulations that were in effect prior to Clinton's election.

Those regulations and the subsequent law were based on the principle that homosexuality is "incompatible" with military service.

Congress decided that since the pre-Clinton regulations had already withstood several constitutional challenges, the courts would be more likely to uphold the statute as well. The only compromise in the exclusion law was elimination of the question regarding homosexuality, but the option to reinstate the question is still authorized in the law.

Studies show the military community does not support allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the nation's armed forces. A recent survey sponsored by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies Project on the Gap Between Military and Civilian Society at Duke University said 76 percent of elite upwardly mobile officers were opposed to allowing homosexuals to serve openly.