Senator McCain says too soon to end military ban on gays

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 2, 2010 5:28pm EST

1 of 5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (R) shakes hands with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) before the Senate Arms Services Committee hearing about the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy on gays serving in the military on Capitol Hill in Washington December 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top Republican warned on Thursday it might be too soon to end the U.S. military's ban on gays, as the party geared up to block President Barack Obama's bid to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy this year.

"I am not saying this law should never change. I am simply saying that it may be premature to make such a change at this time, and in this manner," said Senator John McCain, addressing the U.S. defense secretary and top military officer as they appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCain and some fellow Republicans on the committee also caste doubt on the conclusions and methodology of a Pentagon study released two days ago that predicted little impact if the 17-year-old policy were ended.

Homosexuals currently are allowed to serve in the armed forces as long as they keep their sexual orientation private. Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008 on a pledge to fully repeal the law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The effort, however, faces a promised Republican procedural roadblock in the 100-member Senate, and it's unclear if Democrats can muster the needed 60 votes to clear it.

"They (Democrats) face an uphill climb," a senior Republican aide said.

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, a committee member, said he didn't know how the vote to repeal would shake out in the chamber, which Democrats currently control by a 58-42 margin.

"It seems to be pretty much right down partisan lines at the moment, but that might not be the case," Nelson said in an interview.

At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the military under the ban.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected arguments that the military was too strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to integrate openly serving homosexuals.

"War does not stifle change, it demands it," Mullen said in his testimony.

"If not now, when?" Gates asked in his testimony. He dismissed the notion that it would be easier to wait for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a possibility not seen until at least 2015.

"As I look ahead in the world, I don't see the world being a safer, easier place to live in where our troops are necessarily under less stress (in the future)," he said.

REPUBLICAN ROADBLOCK

Obama's repeal effort has gained added urgency after fellow Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and saw their majority cut in the Senate in the November 2 congressional elections.

The White House sees a narrow window of opportunity to get the ban repealed in the three weeks before the current Democratic-controlled Congress adjourns for the holidays and the new Congress takes power in January.

But repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could also fail for other reasons that have nothing to do with divided, heated views on the issue in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans also are threatening to block any legislation that might come up until Congress acts on extending Bush-era tax cuts and passes needed legislation to keep the federal government up and running.

"I'm inclined to the personal view that 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell' has been pretty effective. And I'm dubious about the change," Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said.

Lindsey Graham, another Republican, said: "I just haven't heard a lot of people saying in the ranks themselves, 'I wish this policy would change.'"

Sessions and Graham are members of the Armed Services Committee.

Mullen made a forceful argument for repeal, saying it was not just possible for the U.S. military, it was a moral imperative.

"We've got thousands of men and women who are willing to die for their country but we ask them to lie about who they are every single day," Mullen said. "And I just fundamentally think that is wrong."

(Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (47)
Eideard wrote:
McCain is a liar and a hypocrite. I know that’s not news to any politics junkie. Just had to say it.

RINO’s know it. Teabaggers know it. Only loyalists will deny it.

Dec 02, 2010 10:15am EST  --  Report as abuse
Wes20 wrote:
Ok grumpy old man, if not now than when? According to you its never now but always later. You say now is a bad time because of the conflicts the american military is in, ok i have a few questions for you. When is America not in some conflict involving our military? And if its suppose to be done later when we are not in some conflict, how come its taken this long to repeal it? So according to you there will always will a reason to delay it. No, now its the time to repeal it not later when you decide it time. McCain you are not the Commander in Cheif, you tried twice and lost so its time to get over it.

Dec 02, 2010 10:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
EgadSailing wrote:
Adm. Mullen’s remarks are illogical, just false. He embarrasses this nation every time he repeats this nonsense he’s been saying:

“troops effectively lie about their sexual orientation in order to serve in the military.”

The policy is in effect — Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — so no one is asking. IF no one is asking, then no one is answering, meaning, they’re not “lying”.

The ONLY people who are “lying about their sexual orientation” are the activists who are using their homosexuality to violate their oaths to the military (”don’t ask, don’t tell”) and coming out with announcements about their homosexuality, thus violating what they’ve sworn to uphold (to not tell).

Mullen’s contorted reasoning defies all logic. He’s clearly looking for a way to rationalize removing the DADT policy bu t he shames his office and his credibility every time he utters this nonsense of his.

Dec 02, 2010 10:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
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