U.S. moving to end ban on gays in military!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is drafting new rules that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly for the first time, but it could be many months before a move that some top officers warn may endanger troops will finally take effect.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign a repeal of the military’s long-standing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which Congress approved this month, later on Wednesday.

Since 1993 when the Pentagon introduced the policy, which permits gays and lesbians to join the armed forces if they do not reveal their sexuality, at least 13,000 people have been expelled from the armed forces for violating the rules.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates supports ending the ban, one of Obama’s key campaign promises, and points to a recent military study that concluded the risks of repeal were low.

The Pentagon must now draft a plan for implementing the altered rules, deciding how troops will be educated about the new policy and making decisions about disciplinary procedures, benefits or the status of those fired for violating “Don’t Ask” in the past, said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

The plan may take a cue from the Pentagon’s recent working group report, which recommended against separate bathroom and shower facilities for gay soldiers and said some benefits, like free legal assistance, could be made available to same-sex couples in an open manner that was impossible in the past.

Sixty days after Gates, Obama and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sign off on that plan, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will officially be lifted.

While Pentagon officials decline to say how long it will take to draft the new rules, critics say the Pentagon may drag out the process in a nod to internal skepticism.

“The defense secretary and service chiefs have so far acted as if repeal is a complicated problem. They are probably going to demand up to a year to train troops how to interact with gays,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“This is a political obstruction by the service chiefs. Bottom line is that military could repeal ban tomorrow if it wanted to, but that’s not going to happen,” he said.

The recent working group report did make suggestions about communicating the new rules and educating troops, but Pentagon officials say more study is required.


Top officials like Marine Corps Commandant James Amos oppose repealing the policy now, saying it is too risky a time to make such a change when the military is already stretched by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

About 30 percent of troops surveyed in the recent study expressed negative views or concerns about the repeal. There is also resistance from the Army and Air Force, and from military chaplains, some of whom believe homosexuality is a sin.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the military would not “slow-roll” the change.

The Senate vote approving repeal of “Don’t Ask” was a victory for Obama, who had been hoping to obtain the change through Congress rather than the courts.

This fall, a California judge ruled the ban was unconstitutional and ordered the military to stop enforcing it immediately. The federal government appealed the decision and the policy was reinstated.

Military officials say it is not yet certain whether soldiers forced out of the armed forces for violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be allowed to re-enlist, but they point to the recent working group’s recommendations to allow it in cases where no other rules had been broken.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

By Missy Ryan


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