Admiral Mullen open to repeal of military gay ban

Sun. May 24, 2009 12:00 AM by

Washington, D.C. - Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday he is open to repeal of the military's ban on open gay service.

Mullen, speaking on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, said military forces were stretched thin challenged by two wars and he would need time to study the impact of repeal.

"[Y]ou know, I would need some time for a force that's under a great deal of stress – we're in our sixth year of fighting two wars – to look at if this change occurs, to look at implementing it in a very deliberate, measured way."

Congress enacted "don't ask, don't tell" – the law that prescribes discharge for gay and lesbian service members that do not remain celibate or in The Closet – in 1993; a compromise of sorts negotiated by President Clinton who sought to lift a ban on gay and lesbians.

Mullen signaled that the Pentagon has no plans to deviate from current law.

"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."

But Mullen also appeared supportive of repeal. When Stephanopoulos asked, "So it sounds like if the Congress calls you up to testify in this, you're going to say now is not the time to repeal?" Mullen answered: "No, I actually – I'm going to talk to the process that we have in this country, which is we follow the law, and if the law changes, we'll comply. There's absolutely no question about that."

The Pentagon and White House have offered conflicting statements on the current state of repeal.

Last week, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted that the policy is under review and repeal is being actively discussed, while Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters that repeal was not being actively pursued.

"I do not believe there are any plans under way in this building for some expected, but not articulated, anticipation that 'don't ask, don't tell' will be repealed," Morrell said.

President Obama pledged during the campaign that he would repeal the ban, but has remained mostly silent on the issue since taking office. Gibbs said Obama is looking for a "durable" solution based on Congressional action.

But opponents of the law say Obama could act on his own. They say, Obama could end the discharges of gay and lesbian service members by issuing an executive order or by cutting necessary funding to "don't ask, don't tell."

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