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Army secretary says Army ready to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
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Army secretary says Army ready to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

The Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, said the Army is prepared to lift the ban on openly Gay service if President Obama and Congress decide to end the policy known as, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT).

McHugh, a former Republican Congressman from New York, is the highest official inside the Pentagon to express such support for lifting the policy that prohibits Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual persons from serving openly in the U.S. military.

During an October 25 interview with the Army Times, McHugh said there was no reason to fear that major difficulties would result from lifting the ban. He said he would help implement the policy change when the time comes.

"The Army has a big history of taking on similar issues with predictions of doom and gloom that did not play out," McHugh said.

In addition, McHugh suggested that the repeal might come in phases, such as allowing Gays to serve in some occupations and not others. Currently, under DADT, as long as a Gay or Lesbian service member keeps mum about their sexual orientation, they may work in any occupation they are assigned.

McHugh was a ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee and voted in favor of the policy in 1993. On Sunday, he said a lot of things have changed since then, including his views.

"I have no interest as either a member of Congress or as secretary of the Army to exclude by some categorization a group of people otherwise qualified to serve," he said. Obama has made it very clear what his position on DADT is. He wants to find a way through this."

"What we're seeing is a tipping point in the opinions of both military and civilian leaders on this issue," said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California that has been a leader in commissioning and disseminating research in areas of gender, sexuality and the military since 1998. "The Army is the largest of the services and the most heavily involved in our wars abroad, and for Secretary McHugh to state clearly that it can handle repeal sends a strong signal to the other service secretaries that they can do the same."

Currently, the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corp. secretaries have not released any statement in support of or against DADT. However, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, have both said they would support and implement repeal if Congress and Obama deem it necessary.

Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said Secretary McHugh's comments were enormously significant, but points out that there is no research to support the idea of letting Gay soldiers serve in some units but not others.

"The rationale for the ban applies equally across all job categories," said Belkin. "So if it's okay to be an openly Gay Arabic interpreter, it's also okay to be openly Gay in the infantry or on a submarine. Since conduct rules apply across the board, there's just no basis for applying different standards specialties."

President Obama stated on October 10, at a Human Rights Campaign annual dinner, that his highest priority for the LGBT community was to repeal DADT. However, nearly 400 Gays and Lesbians have been discharged from the armed services since Obama and the 111th Congress took office in January.

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