Lawyers advise waiting until 2012 to lift military gay banJan 14th, 2010 | By Tony Begley, Contributor and Literary Editor | Category: Lead Story, National News
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is getting conflicting advice about lifting the 1993 ban on gays in the military.
In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, the in-house legal counsel for Admiral Mike Mullen wrote that “now is not the time” to lift the ban. The memo noted the stress on the military during wartime.
The legal advisers recommended delaying the start of the repeal process for a year, meaning it wouldn’t be repealed until 2012.
Two U.S. officials, however, say other Pentagon advisers believe lifting the ban wouldn’t cause unmanageable problems.
Admiral Mullen’s spokesman says there’s been no decision among the Joint Chiefs about what to do or when.
U.S. President Barack Obama made allowing gays to serve openly in the military one of his campaign promises.
The United States Congress will soon decide whether to retain or repeal the 1993 law that excludes homosexuals from eligibility to serve in the armed forces. Although separate from a Defense Department policy popularly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the statute is routinely confused with that policy and described by the same phrase.
Mullen and other military leaders cautioned last year that repeal of the law must be done carefully so as not to disrupt military cohesion in wartime. Last April, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated the process could take years – if it ever happens.
At the time, Gates noted that it took five years for the U.S. military to racially integrate during the Truman administration.
“If we do it, it’s imperative that we do it right and very carefully,” Gates said then.
U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said he wants to begin work this year on repealing the ban. He said he expects testimony from Mullen and Gates, although no date has been set.
Two officials said a hearing could be held in late January or early February, but that does not mean Congress would truly begin work on a new law that would allow openly gay service. Levin has asked Gates to request that the RAND Corp. update its 1993 study on gays in the military before he goes ahead. That outside study would be expected to take several months.
Several other Democrats say they want to lift the ban on gays in the military. But party leaders have yet to press the issue, as Congress remains consumed with debate on the Afghanistan war and closing Guantanamo Bay prison, along with pressing domestic issues like unemployment and health care.
Not every Democrat wants to change the law. U.S. Representative Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on Wednesday that he agrees with Mullen’s legal counsel.
“It’s not a good idea to change the law right now,” he said.
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