Gates reluctantly backs deal on gays in military ban
UPDATE: A solid majority of Americans believes gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, a new poll suggests.
According to a survey conducted for CNN, 78 percent said gay people shouldn’t be ejected from the armed forces if their sexual orientation becomes known to their superior officers, as is currently the case with the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The poll comes as the Obama administration unveiled a compromise agreement with lawmakers that would see the policy repealed once a military review is completed by December.
The poll shows that even a majority of self-identified Republicans — six in 10 — supports repealing the policy.
But that did not stop Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) from declaring Tuesday that the landmark change in policy is being “jammed through” by the administration.
“This ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ issue, they’re going to try to jam that through without even trying to figure out what the impact on battle effectiveness would be,” the former presidential candidate told Arizona’s KBLU radio, as quoted by The Hill.
“One of the reasons they’re trying to jam it through is that they think that after the November elections, they may not have the votes,” McCain said.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS BELOW
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday can “accept” a White House deal with top lawmakers on ending a ban on gays serving openly in the military, but would have preferred to postpone legislation, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Gates’ reluctant endorsement came after President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled a compromise agreement with lawmakers to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which requires gays and lesbians to hide their orientation or face expulsion from the military.
Gates, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, had previously urged Congress to hold off on any new action until the Defense Department could assess the effect of the move.
“Secretary Gates continues to believe that ideally the DoD (Department of Defense) review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ law,'” press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
“With Congress indicating that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment,” he said.)
As a candidate, Obama vowed to rescind the gay ban and has come under intense pressure from gay rights groups for swift action, especially as his fellow Democrats face possible losses in legislative elections later this year.
The White House and senior lawmakers said the compromise would be brought up in the House of Representatives, possibly as early as this week, but the law would not change until after the military completes its review.
The review is due to be finished by December.
The proposed compromise is contained in an amendment drafted by Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who often votes with Democrats and is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The amendment refers to the Pentagon review of the impact on changing the law on readiness, military effectiveness and “unit cohesion,” and provides that the change will not become law until the review is complete and remedies are carried out.
The review is supposed to seek the views of troops and military families on the issue, as well as take into account the experience of NATO allies and other armies that permit gays to serve openly.
More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the law since it was adopted.
The 1993 law replaced an outright prohibition against homosexuals in the military. Former president Bill Clinton agreed to the compromise policy after meeting stiff resistance from commanders and lawmakers when he proposed allowing gays to serve openly.
The move was warmly welcomed on Monday by groups which have campaigned for years for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough,” said Aubrey Sarvis, director of Service Members Legal Defense Network.
“President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.”