Explains how the American military's new anti-gay policy is fundamentally misdescribed by its common nickname, "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."
Explains how the American military's new anti-gay policy is fundamentally misdescribed by its common nickname, 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell'. This book argues that not only homosexuals but all military personnel are placed in danger by the this policy. It is suitable for legal scholars, policymakers, activists, and military historians and personnel.In Don’t Janet E. Halley explains how the military's new anti-gay policy is fundamentally misdescribed by its common nickname, “Don't Ask/Don't Tell.” This ubiquitous phrase, she points out, implies that it discharges servicemembers not for who they are, but for what they do. It insinuates that, as long as military personnel keep quiet about their homosexual orientation and desist from “homosexual conduct,” no one will try to pry them out of their closets and all will be well.
Not so, reveals Halley. In order to work through the steps by which the new law was ultimately drafted, she opens with a close reading of the 1986 Supreme Court sodomy case which served as the legal and rhetorical model for the policy revisions made in 1993. Halley also describes how the Clinton administration’s attempts to offer Congress an opportunity to regulate conduct—and not status—were flatly rejected and not included in the final statute. Using cultural and critical theory seldom applied to explain the law, Halley argues that, far from providing privacy and an assurance that servicemembers' careers will be ruined only if they engage in illegal conduct, the rule activates a culture of minute surveillance in which every member must strictly avoid using any gesture in an ever-evolving lexicon of “conduct that manifests a propensity.” In other words, not only homosexuals but all military personnel are placed in danger by the new policy. After challenging previous pro-gay arguments against the policy that have failed to expose its most devious and dangerous elements, Halley ends with a persuasive discussion about how it is both unconstitutional and, politically, an act of sustained bad faith.
This knowledgeable and eye-opening analysis of one of the most important public policy debates of the 1990s will interest legal scholars, policymakers, activists, military historians and personnel, as well as citizens concerned about issues of discrimination.
“For more than a decade, Janet E. Halley’s groundbreaking work in queer legal theory has made hers a central voice in law and sexuality studies. For anyone interested in understanding the rhetorical battlefield of the U.S. military’s anti-gay policies, Don’t is a must.”—Kendall Thomas, Columbia University School of Law
“Janet Halley's extraordinary book shows us how political analysis, linguistic reading, and legal strategy and philosophy can work together at their best. She has stunned and moved her readers time and again by challenging the apparent oppositions that inform tactical thinking in lesbian and gay legal studies. Hers is a vision complex, learned, practical, brilliant, inspiring, and radical. Don’t is something everyone must do!”—Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, University of California at Berkeley
“Halley’s book is a valuable and much-needed salvo in the war on an archaic and constitutionally compromised policy.” -- Christopher Capozzola * CLGH Newsletter *
"If you thought the policy changes that came out of the gays-in-the-military fracas in Clinton’s first term made things easier for gay soldiers, you’re wrong, Halley says. Meticulously tracing the paper trail of how the changes were formulated, she argues that the new policy is more oppressive. . . . Excellent exposition on its subject . . . ." * Booklist *
"This, the penultimate year of the Clinton administration, may be a good time to review some of his so-called achievements, among them the attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military. And Janet Halley’s Don’t is a great place to start. . . . The outstanding contribution of Don’t is its review of how the language of policy led to such disastrous results. . . . Halley makes her intricate and thoughtful argument memorable through several key phrases: the conduct/status distinction, the queen-for-a-day defense, and the two models of propensity—the actuarial and the psychometric. Like great pamphleteers before her, these phrases help fix the argument in readers’ minds without detracting from the analysis. . . . Offering suggestions . . . takes this book beyond most polemics: it can be useful." * Boston Book Review *
"What accounts for the shift from the old policy to the new one, and then to the new statute? What is the meaning of this shift? Janet Halley attempts to answer these questions not on the basis of interviews or conventional investigative techniques, but with close readings of the new policy and law, and with an exhaustive examination of the public record (hearings, press conferences, speeches, congressional debates). Halley thinks that this system is ‘much, much worse than its predecessor’. . . . One of Halley’s most interesting discussions involves the post 1993 emphasis on [the] idea of ‘propensity,’ a genuine innovation, not to be found in any predecessor and provision." -- Cass R. Sunstein * The New Republic *