Two prominent veterans groups said they are not in favor of President Obama’s plan to put an end to the policy banning openly homosexual men and women from serving in the military.
President Obama has made it clear he wants to change the laws so gay people can serve openly in the military.
The two groups – Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion – have a combined membership of approximately 15 million.
The president has repeatedly said he wants to get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he, too, was in favor of changing the policy.
Retired Air Force Col. Bill Spencer said changing the policy could detract from the military’s mission: to cohesively fight and win the nation’s wars. “I don’t want any defender in the heat of the battle to question the mission motivation of his wingman who demands to be self-identified by any individual, personal label,” he said. “That detracts from the team. Regardless of your views on homosexuality, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not about sexual orientation, but rather is about mission orientation.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2 that they support the move to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military.
Getting rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy could take up to a year, including a Pentagon review on how to implement the change. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” means military personnel cannot ask about sexual orientation and allows people to serve in the military as long as they don’t announce their sexual orientation. The policy bypasses an existing law passed by Congress in 1993 banning homosexuals from serving in the military.
Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said this could drastically reduce the number of people who’d be willing to continue to serve. “The Military Times poll that was done for the year 2008 said 10 percent would end their careers,” she said. “They would not re-enlist. Another 14 percent said they would consider leaving.”
Donnelly added that such a severe reduction would have a devastating effect on the country. “We cannot afford to lose even a fraction of those numbers,” she said, “especially in the mid-level careers and job categories where you have experienced people, non-commissioned officers, the colonels, the captains.”
Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., said her subcommittee would hold a hearing on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on March 3.
Congress passed a law in 1993 banning homosexuals from serving in the military. That same year, President Clinton implemented the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which means personnel cannot ask about sexual orientation. It allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they don’t announce their sexual orientation on their military eligibility forms.
Retired Air Force Col. Bill Spencer said the law is working and should be left alone. “It’s not really about sexual orientation,” he said. “It is about mission orientation. It’s about putting the mission first ahead of self.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis said the country doesn’t need any more contentious debates right now. Having homosexuals serve openly in the military, he said, would bring more social-policy problems to people defending our country. “We’d have to open up the floodgates to homosexual marriage in the military and use of family quarters,” he said.
At the very least, Army Secretary John McHugh thinks the military deserves a say. “Before the President or special interests force a change in the policy or law, Congress deserves to see from the services concrete, in-depth evidence that readiness concerns require a change and that such a change would not degrade wartime military readiness in any measurable, significant way.”
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said, “This isn’t a debate most members asked for. It’s yet another example of this president bringing division where there should be cohesion. It’s an indication that our leader is willing to sacrifice real lives for his political one. And it shows a dangerous tendency of this president to push payoffs above priorities. The military is no place to return campaign favors – regardless of your social views.”