Reviewing don’t ask, don’t tell

Air Date: 
February 2, 2010

The World's Katy Clark reports on Pentagon's decision to launch a year-long study on how it would lift the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the US military.

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. President Obama wants to repeal "don't' ask, don't tell", the policy that bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military. Nearly 11,000 troops have been dismissed under the controversial policy since it was established in 1993. Repealing the policy would require Congressional action. Today the administration's top military commanders went to Capital Hill to make the case. The World's Katie Clark has our story.

KATIE CLARK: In prepared remarks to member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen declared today that gay men and women should be allowed to serve openly in uniform because it's the right thing to do.

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN: No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity, theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.

KATIE CLARK: Admiral Mullen went on to say that he is confident the military can handle the policy change despite any practical obstacles to lifting the ban. But Arizona Senator John McCain wasn't convinced.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: There are patriotic and well-meaning Americans on each side of this debate. I have heard their many passionate concerns. Ultimately, though, numerous military leaders tell me that "don't ask, don't tell" is working and that we should not change it now. I agree.

KATIE CLARK: Also testifying today before the committee was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He noted that until "don't ask, don't tell" is repealed more can and should be done under the existing policy to protect servicemen and women from being disciplined.

ROBERT GATES: We can raise the bar on what constitutes credible information to initiate an inquiry. We can raise the bar on what constitutes a reliable person and on whose word an inquiry can be initiated. Overall we can reduce the instances in which a service member who is trying to serve the country honorably is outed by a third person with a motive to harm the service member.

KATIE CLARK: How best to integrate gays into the armed services, or whether that's even desirable, is a familiar discussion to retired Lieutenant Commander Craig Jones. Jones was serving in the British Royal Navy when the ban on homosexuality in the British military was lifted in 2000.

CRAIG JONES: There was a great deal of - - in the U.K. prior to the lifting of the ban which is very similar to the situation that you're experiencing in the U.S. at the moment. However, frankly, when the rhetoric died down and people realized that the case to stop the lifting of the ban had been lost, everybody turned their attention to something else.

KATIE CLARK: Jones notes that gay Britain's are serving on the front lines alongside Americans all over the world at this point and no one bats an eye. Nathaniel Frank is author of Unfriendly Fire, How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. He says 25 countries now let gays serve openly including Canada, Australia and Israel.

NATHANIEL FRANK: Combat tested militaries, and in almost all the cases the change did not come from the military, it came from the civilian sector, because militaries tend not to offer this up as a new policy of their own will. So they have to be made to do it and when they're made to do it, they find that it is what almost all of them called a non-event.

KATIE CLARK: But these other countries weren't engaged in two wars at the time as the United States currently is. The Obama administration seems to be taking that into consideration and treading cautiously. Secretary Gates announced today that his chief legal advisor and the head of U.S. Army forces in Europe will lead a review into how to go about lifting the ban on openly gay military personnel. That review is expected to take up to a year. For The World, this is Katie Clark.

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