New coalition vows fight on “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2010

WASHINGTON — A coalition of conservative organizations promised Thursday to fight Pentagon leaders’ efforts to overturn the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, arguing that such a change will hurt military morale and readiness.

The group, which includes Focus on the Family and the American Conservative Union, said they will urge lawmakers not to allow “social experimentation” in the ranks while the military is waging two wars overseas, unless advocates can prove that openly gay troops will significantly improve force capabilities.

“The (new) law in actual practice would be enormously complicated, and the problems would be loaded on the backs of countless mid-level officers and NCOs,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “Our men and women in uniform should not have to pay the bill for political promises the president has made to the left.”

On Feb. 2, Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined plans for a year-long study into how the ban on homosexual troops serving openly could be repealed and the consequences of such a move.

Both he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told lawmakers they support the idea, saying the current system forces well-trained and high-performing troops who are gay to compromise their integrity by lying about their sexuality to stay in the service.

Gay rights groups hailed the comments as a pivotal moment in the 17-year fight against the law, originally passed as a compromise after President Bill Clinton failed to win support in the Pentagon for allowing gay servicemembers to serve without any limitations.

But Donnelly and others at Thursday’s event called comments by Gates and Mullen premature and prejudicial, saying that his vocal opposition to “don’t ask, don’t tell” amounted to intimidation against any servicemembers who believe the policy works.

“What has changed since 1993?” asked Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a Marine Corps veteran. “People say the times have changed, and they have. We’re now fighting two wars. This is possibly the worst time to consider experimenting with the military.”

Members of the Alliance Defense Fund said a change to the law could compromise the work of military chaplains, possibly forcing them to teach acceptance of homosexual lifestyles even when it violates their faith. Earlier in the day, the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers reiterated its opposition to allowing gays to serve in the military.

Leaders from each of the services are scheduled to offer their views on a possible repeal of the law before the Senate Armed Services Committee starting next week. The committee has also promised to invite outside opponents and proponents to testify on the issue in coming weeks.


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