U.S. News

Review needed on U.S. military gay ban repeal: Mullen

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, speaks during a news conference in Kabul March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top military officer said on Sunday he would like Congress to hold off passing legislation to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military until the Pentagon completes a review of how to implement the policy.

“Personally I believe the law should change,” Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on FOX News Sunday. “But I also said this review is critically important. I would like the legislation to wait until we’ve completed the review so we can look at how to implement it.”

The House of Representatives last week passed an amendment to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy from the Clinton administration, which allows homosexuals to serve if they keep quiet about their sexual orientation but expels them if it becomes known.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also voted last week to repeal the ban. The measure, which has support from President Barack Obama, still must clear the full Senate.

Opposition Republicans, gearing up for congressional elections in November in which they are expected to make gains, have accused Obama of pandering to gay rights advocates and ignoring the pressures on troops.

Mullen, who also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said he “would certainly have preferred” that Congress had not started acting on the repeal until completion of the Pentagon’s review, due December 1.

“What I don’t want to do is electrify the force at the time of two wars,” Mullen said on FOX. “We get through the review, we’ll understand what it takes to implement it, and having time, and in fact I, with the Secretary of Defense and the President, would certify it that we’re ready for implementation at the time when that should really take place.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has sought to ease concerns among troops about repealing the ban, saying a long, careful review process is ahead. He also said on Friday he did not expect Congress to pass the repeal for months, or by the end of the year.

Reporting by Vicki Allen and Alan Elsner, Editing by Sandra Maler