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February 26, 2010

Move to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ gathers steam

Washington, D.C.--Buried among his defense of torture and Bush administration policies, former Vice President Dick Cheney restated his support for repealing the military policy preventing gay and lesbian personnel from serving openly.

“I think society has moved on,” Cheney said on ABC’s This Week February 14. “I think it’s partly a generational question. I say, I’m reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they’re the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our units, and that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they’re still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission?”

Cheney noted that Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Admiral Michael Mullen expressed support for repealing the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allows gay men and lesbians to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

Mullen made his position clear in testimony before Congress. The Pentagon is conducting a year-long study on the repealing the measure, one of President Barack Obama’s stated policy goals for his administration.

Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs when the policy was passed, himself has noted that attitudes have changed and he now supports allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly. He is joined by Gen. John Shalikashvili, who already expressed his support for repealing it.

While repealing the policy might turn out to be a slower process than LGBT advocates would like, Pentagon officials are expected to issue some recommendations in mid-March to relax policy’s enforcement, especially in cases where information on a servicemember’s sexual orientation comes from someone else, as opposed to the personnel themselves.

Despite military and even conservative support for repeal, other Republicans are not as eager to see the policy change.

Sen. John McCain, questioning Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, expressed his happiness that Congress were the ones who would have the final decision on the policy, not Gates and Mullen, who he accused of trying to repeal it “by fiat.”

However, McCain said four years ago that he would “seriously consider changing” the policy if military leaders ever told him it should be repealed.

Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, may insert a moratorium on discharges during the year the Pentagon is studying the issue, or possibly even a full repeal, into the Defense Department authorization bill when it comes before his committee.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who took over Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became secretary of state, is pushing to bar the use of federal funds to enforce DADT.

This week, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said that he would introduce a measure to repeal DADT.

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