Head of Joint Chiefs Calls Repeal of DADT ‘Right Thing to Do’

Posted February 2, 2010 at 1:18pm

Updated: 5:11 p.m.Top Obama administration military advisers announced plans for a rollback of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell— policy on Tuesday, with the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declaring that allowing gays to serve openly “would be the right thing to do.—But even with the support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it remains unclear whether Congress will act this year to repeal the policy. President Barack Obama called for an end to DADT in his State of the Union last week. “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we prepare for it,— Gates said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mullen acknowledged that many questions remain over how best to overturn the 1993 law, enacted under the Clinton administration, but strongly endorsed the repeal. “I am not all-knowing in terms of the impact this would have,— Mullen said. But he added: “Speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.— Mullen’s position is groundbreaking in the debate over the policy that was in part drafted with the help of Colin Powell, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs when the law was put in place. In his testimony Tuesday, Gates pointed out that gays serve openly in militaries throughout Europe. Speaking from a carefully worded statement, he promised to “get this right and minimize disruption— to members of the military and their families. Gates also announced he was appointing a working group to conduct a 45-day review of the policy and that an evaluation of the review’s findings could take up to a year. In the interim, Gates said, the military would not discharge active servicemembers thought to be gay. That announcement was a major win for gay rights advocates, but it falls far short of the full repeal called for by Obama. Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) have all expressed interest in addressing the issue this year. So far, however, no Senator has introduced legislation to overturn the policy. Levin hinted Tuesday that language could be included in this year’s Defense Department authorization bill.During Tuesday’s hearing, Armed Services ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Mullen how military leaders have responded to Obama’s directive to end the policy and if it were to be overturned, whether gay marriage would be recognized. McCain said that until those types of questions are answered, a repeal — particularly at a time of two wars — is not appropriate. “Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective,— McCain said.House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) agreed, telling reporters that “the overwhelming consensus is that has been a successful policy.—“The burden is on this administration to prove how in the midst of two wars, how advancing some social experiment within our military will make our country safer and improve our military readiness,— Pence said.Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq War veteran, has taken the lead on a repeal of DADT in the House. Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.