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Defense Leaders Express Support for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy

By Kathleen T. Rhem and Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2007 – The top civilian and military leaders in the Defense Department today expressed support for the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay people from military service.

“It is my responsibility to execute that policy as effectively as we can as long as the law is what it is; that’s what we’ll do,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

The issue was brought to the forefront of public consciousness today by comments Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Staffs, made yesterday to editors and reporters of the Chicago Tribune. Pace said he believes homosexual acts are immoral.

Gates said personal opinion has no bearing in enforcing the current law.

“What’s important is that we have a law, a statute that governs don’t ask, don’t tell, and that’s the policy of this department,”

Today Pace reiterated that he supports the current policy, despite his personal beliefs about homosexuality.

“People have a wide range of opinions on this sensitive subject,” the general said in a statement released by the Defense Department. “The important thing to remember is that we have a policy in effect, and the Department of Defense has a statutory responsibility to implement that policy.”

Pace noted that his previous comments also supported the don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

“I made two points in support of the policy during the interview. One, ‘don't ask, don't tell’ allows individuals to serve this nation; and two, it does not make a judgment about the morality of individual acts,” he said in today’s statement. “In expressing my support for the current policy, I also offered some personal opinions about moral conduct.

"I should have focused more on my support of the policy and less on my personal moral views,” he said.

The law allows people to serve regardless of sexual orientation as long as they don’t engage in homosexual acts or disclose their homosexual orientation. It also prohibits harassment based on sexual harassment and forbids “witch hunts” into individuals’ sexual orientation.

Pace said yesterday that he believes homosexual activity is immoral and works against good order and discipline in the services.

“I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that,” Pace said during the Tribune editorial board. “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts.”

The don’t ask, don’t tell policy is based on conduct, not orientation, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. “DoD expects all servicemembers to be treated with dignity and respect all the time,” he said. “Any harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Servicemembers receive training on the law and attend classes on preventing harassment.

Congress enacted the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” law in March 1994. It provides that engaging in homosexual conduct is grounds for discharge from the military. The law also says that service by those who have a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct creates an unacceptable risk to morale, good order, discipline and unit cohesion.

But the law also says, “sexual orientation is a personal and private matter that is not a bar to military service unless manifested by homosexual conduct.”

Under don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue:

-- Servicemembers are not to ask about others’ sexual orientation;

-- Servicemembers should not reveal their sexual orientation; and

-- Commanders could not engage in investigations with the sole purpose of finding out a servicemember’s sexual orientation.

Contact Author

Biographies:
Robert M. Gates
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC


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