Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Top Defense Officials Seek to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top two defense officials called Tuesday for an end to the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, a major step toward allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the United States military for the first time.

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As a murmur swept through a hearing room packed with gay rights leaders, Admiral Mullen said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

He is the first sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs to support a repeal of the policy, and his forceful expression of his views seemed to catch not only gay rights leaders but also Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the committee’s chairman, by surprise.

Mr. Levin, who has long supported ending the law, told Admiral Mullen that his testimony was “eloquent” and praised him for leading on the issue.

In 1993, Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, opposed allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly but supported a compromise, which was the “don’t ask, don’t tell” bill passed by Congress. Under the policy, gay men and lesbians may serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.

In contrast to Admiral Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was more cautious, even as he acknowledged that the question was not whether the law would be repealed but how the Pentagon might best prepare for the change.

Early in his testimony, Mr. Gates made clear that he was acting at the behest of President Obama, who reaffirmed his opposition to the existing law in his State of the Union address last week. Mr. Gates then threw the final decision back to the legislative branch.

“We have received our orders from the commander in chief, and we are moving out accordingly,” Mr. Gates told the committee. “However, we can also take this process only so far, as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress.”

Any change in the policy would not come any time soon, the two officials made clear. Both Admiral Mullen and Mr. Gates told the committee that there would be a Pentagon review, taking up to a year, to study how to implement any change before they expected Congress to act on a repeal.

Passage of repeal is far from assured, judging from the negative reaction from some Republicans on the committee, most notably Senator John McCain of Arizona, who pronounced himself “deeply disappointed” in Mr. Gates.

Mr. McCain said Mr. Gates’s testimony was “clearly biased” because of his not-if-but-when comments. He added that while the law was not perfect, its repeal was too much to ask of a military that is already under stress fighting two wars.

Gay rights leaders pointed soon afterward to comments Mr. McCain made in 2006 on “Hardball” on MSNBC about his willingness to change the policy if Pentagon leaders called for repeal. “The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it,’ ” he said then.

To explain the apparent discrepancy, Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said that the senator thought Admiral Mullen was speaking personally, not on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, and that once a Pentagon review was complete, Mr. McCain would listen to military leaders as a whole.

To lead the review, Mr. Gates appointed a civilian and a military officer: Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon’s top legal counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of the United States Army in Europe.

In the interim, Mr. Gates announced that the military was moving toward enforcing the existing policy “in a fairer manner” — a reference to the possibility that the Pentagon would no longer take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners, one of the most onerous aspects of the law.

Mr. Gates said that he had asked the Pentagon to make a recommendation on the matter within 45 days, but that “we believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform.”

Mr. Levin said he was considering introducing an amendment to this year’s defense authorization bill that would call for a moratorium on discharges under the existing law.
Mr. Gates said the review would examine changes that might have to be made to Pentagon policies on benefits, base housing, fraternization and misconduct, and would also study the potential effect on unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.

For further information, Mr. Gates said he would ask the RAND Corporation to update a 1993 study on the effects of allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve. That study concluded they could do so if the policy was given strong support from the military’s senior leaders.

On one thing, Mr. Gates, Admiral Mullen and Republicans on the committee agreed: many gay men and lesbians are serving honorably and effectively in the military today, despite a policy that has led to more than 13,000 discharges, including those of much-needed Arabic translators.
“I have served with homosexuals since 1968,” Admiral Mullen told the committee. He added, “Everybody in the military has, and we understand that.”

Gay rights groups embraced the comments from Admiral Mullen and Mr. Gates, even as they criticized the Pentagon review as moving too slowly.

Polls now show that a majority of Americans support openly gay service — a majority did not in 1993 — but there have been no recent, broad surveys of the 1.4 million active-duty personnel.
General Ham, an Iraq veteran, is unusual among top military officers for speaking out about his struggles with post-traumatic stress after witnessing the devastation when a suicide bomber blew up a mess tent on an American base near Mosul, killing 22 people, including 14 United States service members. Mr. Johnson, a former assistant United States attorney, previously worked for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

After reading the text of the law, do you believe that this law should be repealed? Why or why not?

The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability. […]

A member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense if one or more of the following findings is made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations:

(1) That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts. […]

(2) That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect. […]

(3) That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex.

16 comments:

Kendra D said...

I believe that having homosexual in the military is an act that should be passed. I think the military should reconsider their morals. It shouldn’t be about your sexual preference but if your willing to fight for your country. I do think that Mc. Cain is correct in the sense that this is not the time to be discussing this. We are fight two wars and this shouldn’t be the third one. This is an issue that needs to be catered to if not now but soon.

Kendra D said...

I believe that having homosexual in the military is an act that should be passed. I think the military should reconsider their morals. It shouldn’t be about your sexual preference but if your willing to fight for your country. I do think that Mc. Cain is correct in the sense that this is not the time to be discussing this. We are fight two wars and this shouldn’t be the third one. This is an issue that needs to be catered to if not now but soon.

Elizabeth P said...

People who join the army (for some) they just want the money and others actually care to serve their country. Its hard enough to get people to sign up for the army, why make it harder by discriminating gays from being in it? Like I once said before, this is the same action they did to African Americans and women, soon enough people will push pass this and allow gays in the army. Gays have every right like everyone else to join in the army and serve their country. I see no problem in that. We have other issues to worry about one of which is to make sure we win this war without all our men dieing. Why are we worried about the people in the army serving to protect their country? We need to start focusing on the real reason why we add people in the army. Is it because of their sexual preference or their will to risk their life for their country?

Philip M. said...

I think that the law, like McCain said, shouldn’t be passed right now. Passing this law will cause less people to sign up to join the military, especially when now is the time when we need them the most. What matters now is the immediate effect of passing the law. After the wars are over, then it would be a better time to pass the law, so that the people will have more time to get adjusted to it, similar to the adjusting of women and African Americans to the military. For the time being, if the law is not passed, then the discharging of homosexuals should be lessened as they still are helping by being part of the military.

Andre said...

i think that what senator McCain said was correct. America is fighting two wars. a Decision on whether gays join can be postponed to another date. Gays still join the army they just keep their mouth shut and i think they can shut up for a few more months or years until both of the wars are over. In due time i think the law will be passed but it should not be hastily rushed and pushed through congress. I think it should be up to the service men to vote who can join their ranks.

victoria said...

I agree that having homosexual in the military should be passed the ask don't tell thing is another way to me saying that theres having racism card being haled in the military. i the future they find out someones straight and they tell every in there group and its being reported back to there captain that person probably wont be sent home or thrown in jail. But on the other hand they will throw the none straight ones in jail for telling. I agree with Kendra it should not be about your sexualality to fright in the wars for your country.It should be about how honored and happy you are that everyone is in it together as one to fright.

D. Samuels said...

I disagree with Kendra. I don't believe that there shouldn't be homosexuals in the military because there could be a lot of problems that could come of this. Some people wont tolerate this and there could be separation within each of the military branches. Another example would be if I was in combat with a homosexual i would want him to be concentrated on the mission and having my back instead of thinking of his/her same sex partner and jeopardizing the mission. Yes everybody says that we have been serving with them for years now, and that's nice but keep it a secret. I like the Don't ask, Don't tell policy and that shouldn't change.

Hogan,I said...

I care about this situation, but then i dont because my answer is no. I dont believe an end should come for the "Dont ask. Dont tell" policy. My reasons and beliefs can be expressed but I know it will cause a debate that will never have a winner. I do agree with Kendra when she states it shouldn’t be about your sexual preference but if your willing to fight for your country, but then I dont because I also believe in the status quo.

A.Rao said...

I personally don't mind having gay men and woman serve in the armed forces, but being an active duty member myself, I don't think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repelled, primarily for safety reasons. Having worked with soldiers, sailors and Marines, the military is still a very conservative organization. Gays would have a hard time fitting in with straight service members, whether or not they are within their chain of command.
There are some I know that completely disagree with fact that there are gays at all. Another Marine I know threatened violence against them (I wasn't sure if he was serious or not).
In the end, it comes down to the values that your parents and society have been raising you with. If DADT is repelled and gays do go out into the field, it's up to the straight man or woman to the left and right of them to either shoot them or the enemy when they get ambushed in the valleys of Afghanistan.

Neal,B said...

I agree with Philip I don’t think the law should be passed at this time but it should be passed as soon as the war is over, or when it’s more convenient. I personally think that don’t ask don’t tell policy is a stupid law simply because if someone wants to go and fight and die for their country their sexuality presence shouldn’t matter. Also I don’t see why being gay should stop u from being able to serve in the military and not only should don’t ask don’t tell policy be taken away they should clear all the people that were dishonorable charge due to this policy.

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adetayo Ohh. said...

Discrimination in the USA isn't suppose to exist! And with saying this I totally disagree with D. Samuels when he states "if I was in combat with a homosexual i would want him to be concentrated on the mission and having my back instead of thinking of his/her same sex partner and jeopardizing the mission.". This statement is absolutely absurd a persons sexual orientation doesn't effect whether they can pay attention during combat. Anyone could be absent-minded during a mission not only homosexuals! And just because your a homosexual doesn't mean your going to be attracted to every same sex person you see. I'm heterosexual and I'm not attracted to every guy I see and if I am attracted to the guy I'm not going to be falling in pot holes while I'm looking at him. I think the same rules apply to homosexuality; correct me if I'm wrong.
The US military is for all US citizens to fight united as one, not oh your gay you go that way; we're suppose to be united. However I don't think the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy should be removed from the system. A persons sexual orientation doesn't matter in the workplace or in a war zone which means the idea of dishonorable discharge for homosexuality should be completely removed. I just can't comprehend why someones sexual orientation even matters in any case. When a soldier does a honorable act in the military it shouldn't be taken away because their a homosexual.

A.Tejada said...

I agree with Philip, that the law should not be passed right at this moment. It is true that less men/women would want to join the army in case that they pass the law that homosexuals can join it. although i don't and wouldn't have a problem with it. However, it will be better if the law us not passed yet. this is a situation that has to be spoken to the public.

Tiffany H said...

Personally I believe that homosexualtity in the military is already happening, and I don't really understand why it is important to ban it now. Even with homosexuals already being enrolled in the military, I believe that it is unfair for them to be singled out, and penilized for their sexual orientation if heterosexual activity isn't frowned upon or being limited during their time served in the military. This law is just the opinion of a group of people going against another group of people unfairly, and it's an example of biasness, and it is like racism, and banning blacks from the military, or banning Jewish people because everyone else is Christian. This law being passed is un-just, and it can put people in a difficult place knowing that half or even just a quarter of the world is against you, or is trying to keep you from doing what everyone else is allowed to do.

jasminep said...

i dont think that have homosexuals in the army is wrong. The people in the army who are straight are old enough to know that they wont catch cooties from the homosexuals. Homosexuality is not a disease so if people dont like it then stay away from it. I think that there are other things more important in the world right now that need to be taken care of.

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