Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mullen says repealing gay military ban is 'right thing to do'

By Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says eliminating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy will cause "some disruption" in the force.

WASHINGTON — Repealing the military's policy banning the service of gays and lesbians in the military "would be the right thing to do," the nation's top military officer told a Senate committee Tuesday.

However, eliminating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy will cause "some disruption" in the force, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"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," Mullen said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the committee that the military would need a year to study how it would allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the ranks.

Gates has tapped his chief legal adviser and a four-star Army general to lead a landmark study on how the military would lift its ban on openly gay servicemembers. Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham, who leads Army forces in Europe, will conduct the year-long assessment.

Gates' announcement marks a measured step toward President Obama's goal of eliminating the military's policy against gays, which is based on a 1993 law.

"That there will be some disruption in the force I cannot deny," Mullen said. "That there will be legal, social and perhaps even infrastructure changes to be made certainly seem plausible."

He also cautioned that military commanders worry about the current war stress on troops and their families. "We need to move forward (with changing policy on sexual orientation) in a manner that does not add to that stress."

Mullen's statement was the strongest yet from the Pentagon on this volatile issue, although he stressed that he was "speaking for myself and myself only."

The policy bans openly gay people from serving in the military but also says that military officers should not ask members of the military about their sexual orientation if they are not engaging in prohibited behavior.

Mullen said allowing homosexuals to serve openly is "an issue of integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. … I also believe the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change."

Mullen said he has served with gay people in the military since 1968 and that many worry every day that they will be exposed and kicked out the military.

He said, however, that the military needs time to determine how to make this change.

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