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Pentagon Asks for Repeal of 'DADT'; Most Troops OK With Gays in Service

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David Wood
Chief Military Correspondent
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday urged the Senate to speedily repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' law banning gays from serving openly in the military, as the Pentagon released a year-long internal study that found repeal would cause only ''limited and isolated'' short-term disruptions to military readiness and esprit.
Seventeen years to the day after President Clinton signed into law the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, the Pentagon formally asked that the law be abolished and set out both the rationale and the procedure to implement what would be a broad social change among the nation's 2.5 million active-duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
"Although potentially disruptive in the short term,'' Gates said, repeal "would not be the wrenching, traumatic change many have feared and predicted.''
He said the welfare and effectiveness of those doing the fighting and dying since 9/11 have "guided every decision I have made in the Pentagon over the past four years. It will be no different on this issue,'' he said, vowing to "minimize any negative impact on the moral cohesion and effectiveness of combat units.''
Gates and other defense officials said allowing openly gay service members could be achieved, given some unspecified time of preparation, without creating separate shower or bedroom facilities, and within existing law and regulations concerning benefits.
In a statement, President Obama said he had pledged to repeal the ban "because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks."
Endorsing the report's findings, Obama urged the Senate to repeal. "With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all,'' he said. "Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped fighting force the world has ever known.''
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also concurred with the report's findings, and noted that whatever the personal feelings of individual service members about repeal of the law, existing military regulations on personal behavior would continue to govern."We in uniform have an obligation to follow orders,'' he said. "We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces -- or we don't last long.''
Gates and Mullen had previously declared themselves in favor of repeal of the gay ban, arguing that it required gay and lesbian service members to lie, violating the military's highest value of honor. The service chiefs, who head the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, have expressed greater doubts about repeal, with Gen. James Amos, Marine commandant, expressing outright opposition.
Nonetheless, about two-thirds of active-duty, reserve and National Guard personnel would be comfortable serving alongside openly gay or lesbian service members or felt indifferent about the change, the study found.
More resistance was found within the largely male Marine Corps and Army combat troops and special operations units, where the Pentagon study found 40 to 60 percent either were opposed to repeal of the gay ban or said it would harm the critical camaraderie of their units.
But across the military services, the study also found that about 69 percent of troops have served with a gay or lesbian service member. Of those, 92 percent said they either favored repeal or did not oppose it.
Even among combat units with the greatest doubt about changing the law, 84 percent of the Marines and 89 percent of Army soldiers who said they had served with gays or lesbians said they did not oppose repeal.
Asked at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday about doubts and reservations among troops about repeal of the law, Gates said, "Part of this is a question of unfamiliarity, part of it is stereotypes, and part of it is just inherent resistance to change when you don't know what's on the other side.''
Implementation of repeal, detailed in a separate Pentagon report released Tuesday, could take months or longer, defense officials said, as the Defense Department and the military services establish training programs and adjust policies to accommodate gay and lesbian partner benefits, for instance.
Even if the Senate joins the House in approving repeal of the law, the Pentagon could not implement the change until the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that military readiness would not be affected. It is possible that neither Gates, who has said he will retire next year, nor Mullen, whose term ends next fall, will be responsible for such certification.
The House voted in September to repeal the law, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he intends to bring the issue to a Senate vote during the current lame-duck session. A provision to repeal is attached to the pending defense budget authorization bill. Many GOP supporters of the current gay ban, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have vowed to prevent a vote on repeal.
In urging speedy Senate action to repeal the law, Gates said the worst outcome would be to have the courts order an immediate lifting of the gay ban, an outcome that could be imminent.
In September, DADT was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. district court judge, who issued a global injunction halting Pentagon investigation and discharge of gay service members. The injunction was put on temporary hold by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, technically allowing enforcement of DADT to continue for an uncertain period.
A Senate vote to repeal would not bring quick change. "We are asking for time subsequent to that to prepare adequately before the change is implemented,'' Gates said. He said he did not know how long that might take, but he noted that President Obama, who has pressed for repeal, "will be watching very carefully to ensure that we don't dawdle or slow-roll on this.''
To have the courts interfere and impose abrupt change by judicial fiat "would be would be by far the most damaging and disruptive scenario I can imagine . . . to battlefield performance,'' Gates told reporters.
In a pointed remark aimed at repeal opponents in the Senate, he added: "Those who choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts.''
The task force findings were based on the views of about 255,000 service members and military family members whose opinions were solicited by e-mail, in town meetings, in demographically balanced focus groups and by confidential communication. The task force study was headed by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, a former enlisted paratrooper who commands Army troops in Europe.
This was not a binding opinion poll, Gates stressed, since civilian leaders are responsible for setting policy, not individual troops. But Gates said the opinions and experiences of the troops are important in designing implementation of such a significant change as repealing the law.
In large measure, that is because smooth implementation of the change will depend on the behavior and good will of troops in the ranks. Defense officials expect that most gays and lesbians currently in uniform will continue to be discrete, out of a desire to "fit in.'' But officials also stressed that military law requires high standards of personal behavior, and those standards will not be relaxed.
"We believe it is not necessary to establish an extensive set of new or revised standards of conduct in event of repeal,'' Johnson said. Among the adjustments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that might be required, he told reporters at the Pentagon, are a provision allowing for prosecution of consensual sodomy, and the definition of adultery.
To military members who expressed moral or religious objections to serving with gays, Johnson said those concerns "cannot be downplayed or dismissed.''
But the reality, he said, "is that in today's U.S. military people of sharply different moral values and religious convictions already co-exist, work, live and fight together on a daily basis.'' No one, he said, will be required to change their own views or values, but they must respect the values of others.
Johnson also said the Pentagon currently has the authority to extend certain benefits to same-sex partners by allowing soldiers to designate anyone of their choice to be a beneficiary.
Allowing a same-sex partner of a service member to be designated as a "dependent,'' which would confer a wide array of benefits, is not under consideration, he said. And many military benefits cannot be legally extended to gay and lesbian couples even if they are legally married in a state that allows such unions.
With publication of the twin Pentagon reports on repeal of the gay ban, the issue moves to Capitol Hill, where the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday, when the service chiefs will be called to testify.
Filed Under: Military

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My own interviews of WWII combat personnel a three decades ago said they were/would have been uncomfortable serving with an openly gay person. As long as they didn't know they could have cared less with whom they served. Guys in combat form a bond with each other. They work together. They come out after enemy fire has ceased because of that cohesiveness. In most cases blacks will see whites as whites and whites will see blacks as blacks - BUT they also see matters of commonality. Apparently sexual preference issues are more difficult to accept. Go figure

December 02 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It appears that the study does not include understanding of human sexuality in general nor and force this irresolute agenda down our throats. Presently a gay not admitting he is gay is lying and an invasion of personal privacy of the person he or she shares a barracks with. Just as a man fakes being a woman then shares a barrack with a female. On the other hand gays cannot have it both ways to interject identifying themselves as gay then to follow disregard to the category of selected sexuality and then have them cohabitate in the military and also honor exclusive marriage in the future. Eliminating adultery and the normal standards we govern. Disallow male/ female cohabitation in the barracks and in theater and then to permit gay with gay or bisexual to cohabitate. It's a predjudice and favortism and permissive demonstration of poor behavior and ethics. America does accept the notion of homosexuality however, it seems gays want special rules to conduct themselves and engage into sexuality outside the limits of standard rules of human sexuality and respect for gender sexuality, meanwhile they want us to forget about it when living in quarters and become just one of the guys. This plan is worse than the wrap up plan for Iraq, inclusion without a rational plan and funding which will be huge. They expect members preparing for an active deployment to also take the time to be tolerance brainwashed with non mission oriented agenda for force readiness. They want to be the exclusive exception to the rule of cohabitation, however taken serious at the same time as a valid lifestyle and potential exclusive marriage. They can't have both. The issue many Christians have is force cohabitaion and the Bilical story of Lot. The Southern Baptist Convention is not very happy this idea of forced cohabitation outside of marriage and there is an estimate that 28% will not re-enlist over the forced cohabitation issues among christian service members who may not even participate in cohabitation outside of marriage even in a male female cohabitation. Sexuality is sexuality and as a standard it's not mixed in the baracks. So if it is a sexual identity then treat it as such and respect the privacy of everyone including gays as such and remove again the irresolute agenda that is being implied. Including gays would be accompanied by a great expense in ensuring that the privacy and personal safety will be practiced according to sexuality preference. They cannot mix and want marriage and all the identification and customs of a sexual identity and acceptable human interaction.

December 02 2010 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ll's comment

OMG! 1. What is the agenda? Serve the country in the military! If that's bad, we should disband the armed services. 2. Sentence four makes no sense whatsoever. 3. Sentence five isn't even a sentence. 4. "Gays want special rules"! A typical conservative/Republican tactic: "special rules", "special rights". Like what special rule? I think it's a rule permitting them to serve our country in the military as openly gay. As it stands now, heterosexuals have a special rule to serve as openly heterosexual, while gays are not accorded the same privilege of serving with their sexuality openly known. 5. Forced cohabitation! Get real! Cohabitation as it is usually known involves sleeping in the same bed with someone else. No one in the military, excluding soldiers cohabiting with their wives or husbands, may cohabit anyway. 6. "Great expense"? As far as I can see it costs nothing. This thought was obviously plucked out of thin air. I would say that the entirety of the comment was fermented in an environment of thin air.

December 02 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Joe Lieberman is pushing for the repeal of DADT. This is Joes' military record: "A spokesperson told The Hartford Courant in 1994 that Lieberman received an educational deferment from the Vietnam War draft when he was an undergraduate and law student from 1960 to 1967. Upon graduating from law school at age 25, Lieberman qualified for a family deferment because he was already married and had one child, Matt." Guess Joe should know what the effect will be on our military men and women. Do what is fair, and right, right Joe?

December 02 2010 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

It is assinine to place additional stress on our military men and women, whether it is 100, or 100,000, who oppose repeal. Gates is protecting his own backside.

December 02 2010 at 1:06 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

This is not an accurate story and is not an accurate in the details of the report: "Even among combat units with the greatest doubt about changing the law, 84 percent of the Marines and 89 percent of Army soldiers who said they had served with gays or lesbians said they did not oppose repeal" Incorrect. A majority of combat unit member were unhappy, that would be the trigger pullers folks, as well as almost half of this group pledged to leave the military/naval forces if DADT were repealed+other issues in the report make this a very misleading article. This is the usual cherry picking facts to reach an already determined idea.

December 02 2010 at 11:33 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Of course are commander in chief,secretary of state are for having gays in are military. They never have served... And 70% of our countryman are not in favor of this your facts are wrong. Why dont these people allow those who have served and now are serving do the voting!!!! Us veterans are the ones who have to live with there decisions. ARE MILITARY IS WORKING FINE THE WAY IT IS. LEAVE IT ALONE!

December 01 2010 at 1:31 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to schicatano2's comment

Members of the US Armed Services, not veterans, are the ones who have to live with the decisions, though the lack of talented people will affect us all. The US military is not working fine. Many people with valuable skills are not allowed to serve their nation.

December 01 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

first off id like to say this is deff not true and id bet my life on it. and second, im surprised a man of gates reputation is supporting this

December 01 2010 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

I have 22 years in the army now. And as far as the report stating that military personal dont mind, they never asked me or anyone that I serve with... If being gay and serving in the military is ok,with no restrictions. Then it must be ok with my female comrades to ok coed showers and latrines. Your asking straight men and woman to share these facilities with gay individuals it is the same thing, so to give the rights to a very small minority,your willing to impede on the majority who really are not comfortable with. Why dont these panels how us soilders really feel. Instead of speaking for us. In fact lets have a vote with all military personal how they feel. I bet that they would not vote for gays serving in the military. Let us vote and leave these so called experts voting for me...

December 01 2010 at 1:23 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to schicatano2's comment

If you're really a soilder, maybe you need to stand up to the people running the panels instead of speaking for yourself on this discussion area, hiding who you really are. I bet there are more gays and lesbians serving right beside "all military personal" (personnel btw) than you or anyone else realizes. Maybe next time you or one of your military buds is in Iraq, with a bomb about ready to fall on you, that gay serving next to the intolerant "Majority" should leave you there instead of saving you! Wake up and realize you fight for EVERYONE in this country NOT just who YOU CHOOSE!!

December 01 2010 at 3:55 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

First of all, you don't get to vote on military policy. Policies are made by civilians. Second, I highly doubt the polls referenced in the article are made up and tend to think they reflect changing attitudes that are prevalent among the younger generation. Third, if you've served for 22 years, you've been showering with gays for a long time and you should know that. After all, the law does not ban gays from serving, it just requires them to lie about it so homophobes like you aren't made to feel uncomfortable.

December 01 2010 at 3:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

With this final report and 'weighing' in, there are still those in the Senate who are threatening fillibuster, aking for new studies, flip flopping on positions they never dreamed they would HAVE to flip flop on...these stalwarts of status quo are now simply nothing more than power mongers who care NOTHING about public opinion or national security or even the theory of a democratic vote! They simply want to STOP ANYTHING this administration puts its stamp to and will oppose whatever it is regardless of the good...They should leave Congress if they are so disruptive and can no longer effectively lead with the corruption and false bravado with which they have learned to operate...

December 01 2010 at 12:53 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jleamer's comment

so true, thanks for this comment!!! They should leave Congress if they are so disruptive and can no longer effectively lead with the corruption and false bravado with which they have learned to operate...

December 01 2010 at 1:02 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
Diane Mahoney

Not all journalists agree with you, Mr. Wood. Check out this link for more balanced jounalism. Open 'gays' in the service: All risks, no benefits Is fulfilling campaign promise worth compromising military effectiveness?

December 01 2010 at 12:50 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Diane Mahoney's comment

You just won't be satisfied until the pendulum swings in your favor...and right now it ISN'T...welcome to democracy! It serves us ALL!

December 01 2010 at 12:54 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

You realy call that balanced? I bet you call what they have on fox "news" dont you?

December 03 2010 at 11:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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