Top defense officials say lift military ban on gays

February 2, 2010 8:58:14 PM PST
The military's controversial "don't ask don't tell" policy appears headed for repeal, but not without a fight.

There was heated testimony at Tuesday's hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Republican members of the committee, including Sen. John McCain, D-Arizona, are opposed to repealing "don't ask don't tell" and they went after Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen.

In his state of the union address, President Barack Obama said he wanted "don't ask don't tell" repealed. Tuesday, his former opponent in the presidential race led the charge in opposition.

"At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the 'don't ask, don't tell policy,'" McCain said.

But in 2006, McCain had a different take.

"The day the leadership in the military comes to me and says, 'Senator we ought to change the policy,' then I think we should seriously consider changing it," he said on a TV news program on Oct. 18, 2006.

Tuesday,the highest ranking military man in the nation said it's time.

"It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do," Mullen said.

And McCain's reaction?

"I am deeply disappointed with your statement?I think your statement is clearly biased," McCain said.

Elaine Donnelly was at Tuesday's hearing; she leads Center for Military Readiness, a group opposed to gays in the military.

"I did not hear one argument from those in favor of homosexuals in the military that said anything about benefiting the troops, improving good order, discipline, morale, unit cohesion," she said.

Former sergeant Anthony Loverde spent seven years in the Air Force, deploying twice to the Middle East, before he came out and was subsequently discharged.

"The fact is there is no evidence to support that mission effectiveness, readiness, unit morale ,cohesion, none of that's being negatively effected by 'don't ask, don't tell,'" he said.

Loverde says what is wrong with the ban is that it forced him to lie to members of his unit.

"For me not being able to be honest with them, to be asked to watch their kids, watch their house, to be very much involved in their lives and not be honest with them that is something I had to deal with," he said.

John Caldera, the commander of American Legion Post 315, says "don't ask don't tell" is a flawed policy.

"Because it really did put the 'us versus them' or 'one group versus another group' and that's no way to have equality," he said.

But right next door at Post 40, Darryl Toscas said gays do not belong in the armed services.

"There are those individuals that should serve and can serve and those that really should not be there," he said.

It will take a while to repeal "don't ask don't tell;" the Pentagon is going to conduct a yearlong study on how best to do it. Meanwhile, Gates has asked for lax enforcement of the ban.