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January 29, 2010

 

‘Don’t ask’ repeal won’t be this year, says Skelton

Washington, D.C.--The efforts to repeal the military’s ban on service by out gay men and women is facing opposition from an unexpected corner: the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, who had a major hand in crafting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, is now the House of Representatives’ point person on military matters, heading its Armed Services Committee.

In a January 17 interview on CSPAN, he argued that the United States military’s involvement in two conflicts makes this a bad time to change the policy, and said that he would probably oppose moving to lift the ban this year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama both favor repealing DADT, as does Skelton’s opposite number in the Senate, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan. Levin said his committee will hold hearings at the end of January.

Skelton, however, is not scheduling hearings before his committee. Instead, he will bring the matter before the personnel subcommittee.

Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are prepared to testify before the Senate committee, Gates said, and there are conversations ongoing in his department about implementing the president’s policy goals.

There are conflicts within the Pentagon, however, over how fast to proceed with ending DADT and allowing lesbian and gay soldiers to serve openly.

Polls are backing up the efforts to change the policy: Gallup polling in June showed 69 percent support for allowing gay men and women to serve openly, including 58 percent of the Republicans who were polled.

A poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by Zogby International found that 73 percent of them were comfortable with the idea of serving with out soldiers, and almost a quarter said that they knew that someone in their unit was gay or lesbian.

Since the policy was introduced in 1993, 13,500 servicemembers have been dismissed, including at least 65 linguists in the “mission-critical” languages of Arabic and Farsi. The investigations and proceedings have cost the military over $360 million.

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