Until 1993, every potential soldier from Indiana or anywhere else in the United States who wanted to serve his or her country would have to answer question No. 27 on the Department of Defense enlistment form, which sought to identify—and disqualify from service—members of the LGBT+ community. Many recruits faced the choice of compromising their identity or risking being court-marshaled and tried for providing false information on the enlistment form.
Beginning in 1918, the United States military had prohibited gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from joining the armed forces. While policy and language fluctuated for several decades with regards to what the military called “unnatural carnal copulation,” a 1950 military and nationwide policy codified the discharge of LGBT+ service members and the exclusion of potential LGBT+ recruits.
Despite military policy denying gay and lesbian citizens from joining or remaining in the U.S. military, many men and women continued to do so. LGBT+ soldiers from across the country, including Indiana, served valiantly under this restriction and faced the constant threat of being forcibly removed from military service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton announced his intentions to end the policy of excluding gay servicemen and women from the military. A tremendous backlash to Clinton’s plan reverberated across the nation. Leading the opposition was conservative Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats, an outspoken critic of accepting gay and lesbian soldiers. In response, organizations like the Greater Indianapolis Fairness Alliance, and the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, as well as prominent individuals of the local LGBT+ community like Tanya Domi, Director of the Military Freedom Initiative for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, organized protests and Chris Gonzalez, founder of the Indiana Youth Group, met with Senator Coats.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the official national policy that developed out of this conflict. Between 1993-2004, nearly 10,000 soldiers were discharged because of this policy. Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” soldiers were no longer questioned on their sexual orientation, but being gay or lesbian still resulted in discharges if discovered by military authorities. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2010. Three years later, Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which had codified the discharge of LGBT+ service members and the exclusion of potential LGBT+ recruits, was removed.