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Gates Addresses Troops on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told troops worldwide today that any repeal of the so-called “don’t ask don’t tell” law will be delayed until the ongoing Defense Department high-level review is completed, and only after he, the president and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all can certify that the department is ready to make the change without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness, and recruiting and retention.Video

Gates recorded a special message that will be broadcast on the American Forces Radio and Television Service and the Pentagon Channel to speak directly to servicemembers and their families about the moves toward repeal of the law that bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

"There's been a lot of political posturing and maneuvering on this issue this week, and the secretary wanted to communicate directly to the troops about what this all means to them," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. "He wanted to make it clear that the department's review of how to smartly implement a change in the law is more important than ever, and their participation in it is absolutely critical to its success."

The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill yesterday that would allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed a similar amendment last night.

President Barack Obama said he is pleased with the congressional actions. He has long favored repealing the law, in which has been in effect since 1994.

“Key to successful repeal will be the ongoing Defense Department review, and as such, I am grateful that the amendments … will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process,” he said in a written statement released by the White House last night.

Obama said being the commander in chief is his greatest honor. “This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity,” he said.

Any change in the law will take time, Gates said in his recorded message. “The legislative process is long and complex,” he said. “While it appears likely that Congress will eventually change the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law, we do not expect the legislation that would do this to be presented to the president for months – perhaps not until the end of the year.”

The amendment is the result of a compromise worked out between the administration and Congress. It allows the military to revoke the “don’t ask, don’t tell” provisions 60 days after a military study group chaired by Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, presents its report in December.

The legislation is a deferred repeal, Gates stressed. “It would repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but only after -- I repeat, after -- the ongoing Department of Defense high-level review is completed, and only after the president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I all can certify that we are ready to make this change without hurting unit cohesion, military readiness, military effectiveness, and recruiting and retention,” Gates said.

As the legislative process continues, nothing will change in current policies and practices, the secretary said. “Current law, policies and regulations remain in place, and we are obligated to abide by them as before,” he said.

The vote in the House and at the Senate committee makes the results of the Defense Department study even more important, Gates said. The panel will conduct a thorough and fact-based assessment of the impact of the potential law change and will develop “an implementation plan that minimizes any possible disruption to the department’s mission and on-going operations,” he added.

Gates urged servicemembers to participate in the review. “We need to hear from you, and your families, so that we can make these judgments in the most informed and effective manner,” the secretary said. “So please let us know how to do this right.”

He asked all servicemembers to stay informed on this issue, but to not let it distract them from the “critical mission to defend our country and our duty to uphold the values represented by the uniform you wear,” he said.

The message will play on AFRTS broadcast outlets overseas and on the Pentagon Channel in the United States.


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Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

7/18/2010 11:05:37 PM
I do not have a problem with homosexuals, Nor do I with bi sexuals. I also do not have a problem with them serving in my military, as long as there are certain stipulations created and strictly upheld. We will have to create and remap how Basic Military Training is conducted either by segregation of gays and straight men or create the flights as co-ed. Now since we've let them serve in the worlds finest military we must make a decision...do we let them show affection (openly but not over the top) in public or create Military Equal Opportunity cases for discrimination by telling them "no". Also we must reform our Pay raise for married individuals cause they wouldn't be able to legally obtain those benefits. I could go on and on. To sum it up, keep the DADT policy. Right now is not the time to go changing something as life altering and touchy as that.
- Eric, Dover AFB, DE

5/30/2010 6:38:15 AM
I DO NOT AGREE with this new Policy of allowing Gays an Lesbians in the Military. I think the DADT should remain in effect! I believe that it should be Broadcasted to all military installations encouraging the soldiers of all Branches to be the ones to vote on this Issue. The public, Robert Gates or the President should have no control over this. They are not the ones affected by this, the Military members are. I also believe that if gay men and women are allowed to shower with the same sex then that means I should be able to shower with a women! The reason for this, is that a gay man can look at my penis in the shower and being that he is Gay that means he can look at me as the opposite sex. You people in the White House are making a mockery of our Heritage and the principles that this nation was founded on. Don't get me wrong I don't believe in unequal treatment for people that love who they love but really whats next letting them live together or walk hand in hand at the BX
- Jason, my house

5/28/2010 6:23:38 PM
My parents were both active duty, as is my ex-husband and were my stepfather, sister, brother, uncle and great grandfather. Every American has the right to help defend his/her country and their sexual preference should not be a deterrent to do so. There are many good men and women out there who would give their life for their country in a heartbeat but are afraid of what the repercussions may be because of their sexual preference. If you are active duty then you not only defend your country but you defend the people in your country and those with different sexual preferences are part of the people you defend so why not let them help you. We need to stop being so close minded and see a beyond colors, religion, politics and sexual preferences in our military as these do not make a difference in the level of patriotism we all feel towards our country.
- Frances Rivera, Texas

5/28/2010 5:14:02 PM
I do not agree with gays being in the army or allowed in the army. Combat men have to deal with blood and other body liquids withoout gloves and most of those men are married and have children we do not need to put this on the plate too. we have enought to worry about when they are deployed and in the field so lets not add this as well.
- lynda, ky

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