Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers: ‘Gays Can Serve…They Just Can’t Serve Openly’

Yesterday in his speech to the Human Rights Campaign, President Obama pledged to “end” the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. That comment was the subject of a debate this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) expressed his support for Obama’s position, but emphasized that it needs “buy-in from the military.” Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers struck a different note:

HOST: Do you have an opinion about whether it’s time?

MYERS: Well, I take some exception with what Senator Levin said because gays can serve in the military; they just can’t serve openly. And they do. And there’s lots of them. And we’re the beneficiary of all that.

Levin rolled his eyes after hearing Myers’ remark. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said “there’s no question it’s time to change the policy.” Asked for his thoughts, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) avoided making any clear statements. Watch it:

According to Myers, silent discrimination is totally acceptable in the military. He’s happy to be the “beneficiary” of the sacrifices of soldiers who have to hide their sexual orientation. As the Pentagon’s own journal — Joint Force Quarterly — explains, the current policy damages unit cohesion:

The law as it currently stands does not prohibit homosexuals from serving in the military as long as they keep it secret. This has led to an uncomfortable value disconnect as homosexuals serving, estimated to be over 65,000, must compromise personal integrity. Given the growing gap between social mores and the law, DADT may do damage to the very unit cohesion that it seeks to protect. Finally, it has placed commanders in a position where they are expected to know everything about their troops except this one aspect.

This current status quo of quiet discrimination is responsible for the dismissal of many qualified soldiers with critical skills. “By not allowing gay Americans to serve openly, we are imposing an artificial limit on the number of loyal Americans that our military can draw upon to fill its ranks,” writes Stephen Walt.


After Myers left his post in 2005, he was replaced by his deputy, Peter Pace, who opposed repealing DADT because he said homosexuality is “immoral.” The current Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, has taken a different view, stating that the military is prepared to accept a change in policy.


In today’s Washington Post, Joseph Rocha — who was expelled from the Navy under DADT — recounts what happened when he honored the “don’t tell” aspect of the policy while in the military:

My understanding of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was that if I kept quiet about my sexuality and didn’t break any rules, I would face no punishment. I was wrong.

Once I joined the Navy, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, for being gay. The irony of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply. […]

I told no one about what I was living through. I feared that reporting the abuse would lead to an investigation into my sexuality. My leaders and fellow sailors were punishing me for keeping my sexuality to myself, punishing me because I wouldn’t “tell.”