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Military chief reviews ban on gays

Associated Press / May 25, 2009
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WASHINGTON - President Obama's top military adviser said yesterday that the Pentagon has enough challenges - including two wars - without rushing to overturn a decade-old policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military and incites political and social factions on both sides.

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is working on an assessment of what - if any - impact overturning "don't ask, don't tell" rules would mean for the military and its culture. In the meantime, the Pentagon plans to follow the existing rules, which say gays and lesbians can serve in the military if they do not disclose their sexuality or engage in homosexual behavior.

"The president has made his strategic intent very clear, that it's his intent at some point in time to ask Congress to change this law," Mullen said. "I think it's important to also know that this is the law; this isn't a policy. And for the rules to change, a law has to be changed."

During his presidential campaign, Obama pledged to overturn the Clinton-era policy and promised that gays and lesbians could serve openly in uniform. But he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January. He has not set a deadline for repeal, has given the Pentagon no direct orders, and has kept Capitol Hill guessing about when he might ask for a change in the law.

Mullen said the military would not start on a timeline until Congress acts.

Obama's go-slow approach has drawn criticism from gay rights groups, including activists and fund-raisers who met in Dallas to organize a grass-roots lobbying effort to force Obama's hand.