'Don't ask' repeal passes... now what?
Don't expect openly gay and lesbian Americans to start rushing today to military recruitment offices just because lawmakers voted Thursday to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." At best, opponents of the military's gay ban hope they can start reenlisting during the first quarter of next year.
President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen still have to sign off on a Pentagon study of how to integrate gays and lesbians. If they approve the plan, the Pentagon must draft changes to its personnel policy and Obama likely will have to sign an executive order banning discrimination against homosexuals -- similar to how Harry Truman integrated African Americans into the force.
The entire debate about gays in the military essentially reverts back to 1993, when Bill Clinton and lawmakers negotiated the "don't ask" compromise with military leaders. But this time the president, defense secretary and some (but not all) military leaders support enlisting openly gay Americans.
In the meantime, gay rights leaders said homosexuals currently serving in uniform need to be careful. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group pushing for repeal, sent an e-mail to members this week warning that “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members remain vulnerable to being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation. While Congress is taking steps to enact a road map for full repeal and the implementation of open service, it is not safe to come out or serve openly until the process of repeal is complete.”
If/when the military lifts the ban, supporters anticipate 20 to 30 percent of service members discharged under the ban may reenlist. Former Air Force Captain and active SLDN member Mike Almy was discharged under the ban in 2006. He now works as a defense contractor, but said he’s still medically and physically qualified to serve in uniform.
“I come from a military family, this is all I want to do. I dedicated my whole life to being an officer,” Almy said.
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| May 28, 2010; 12:23 PM ET
Categories: Eye Opener, Military
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