Admiral Michael Mullen sat down with OutServe magazine to discuss how he came to oppose the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as President Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rather than cater to pre-existing sentiment, such as Marine Gen. James Amos’ support of the policy, Mullen insisted on investigating DADT and its impact on servicemembers. Ultimately, he realized that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military was “fundamentally an issue of integrity”:
MULLEN: A lot of commanders on the ground don’t want the chairman to get so close to the fight. I understand that. But I tried to push as far into their world as I could. I also sat down with retired or former military members who were gays and lesbians and just listened to them, to their views, to what they’d been through. All that work got me to a position where it was fundamentally an issue of integrity. Since June 30, 1964, when I went to the Naval Academy, I’ve been taught that honor and integrity define who we are—our core values. How could I reconcile that with the fact that we were forcing men and women who would give their lives for the country to lie every day about who they are?
Indeed, that sentiment is exactly what he testified on February 2, 2012 to the Senate Armed Services Committee, permanently re-framing the issue from one of sexual orientation to one of integrity. In doing so, Mullen proved himself a role model for that very integrity, highlighting the end of his military career championing a profound accomplishment for military civil rights.