Yesterday on CBS’s Face the Nation, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he would not ask Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace to apologize for calling homosexuality “immoral” and comparing it to adultery,” saying “we should just move on from this point.”
Host Bob Schieffer asked Gates, “You don’t plan to ask General Pace to do anything more than he’s already done?” Gates responded, “No,” and praised Pace as “one of the finest people I’ve ever worked with” and “a man of enormous principle and integrity.”
Gates later refused to comment on whether he believes Pace’s comment was “a slur on members of the armed forces,” and said that he was too busy to have an opinion on whether Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is an effective policy. “I’ve got quite a lot on my plate,” he said.
Gates may not believe that Pace’s remark was a slur, but others do, including retired Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay man and the first American soldier to be seriously wounded in Iraq. Alva said in a statement about Pace:
Judging gay men and women in the military for factors unrelated to their fitness to serve undermines our military’s effectiveness. Certain leaders’ bigotry should not be a rational basis for discrimination. This kind of prejudice is going to continue to have a direct impact on our national security as we allow qualified gay men and women to lose their jobs for no good reason. This policy — and General Pace’s bigotry — is outdated, unnecessary and counter to the same American values our soldiers are giving their lives for each and every day.
SCHIEFFER: Another tough situation that you’re facing in your job early on is the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Pace, said recently that he considered homosexual acts immoral. He later said, well, he shouldn’t have said that, but he didn’t apologize. And a lot of gay people are saying that that is a slur on thousands of people who are serving in the military right now.
I would like to ask you first, do you agree with General Pace, and should more be done on this front?
GATES: Well, as I said the other day, I think that this is an issue on which personal opinion really doesn’t have a place. We have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy that is a law. It’s inscribed in statute. My responsibility is to implement the provisions of the statute.
SCHIEFFER: And you think it’s OK as it is? You don’t plan to ask General Pace to do anything more than he’s already done?
GATES: No. I think General Pace has made pretty clear that he wished he had avoided his personal opinion.
Let me say, you know, Pete Pace is one of the finest people I’ve ever worked with. He’s a man of enormous principle and integrity and a tremendous — and of tremendous skill. I think the American people are lucky to have him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
SCHIEFFER: But what I guess the question I asked was, do you consider that a slur on members of the armed forces, what he said?
GATES: I think I’ll leave it at the fact that I don’t think this is an issue where personal opinion has any place.
SCHIEFFER: And you don’t think he should apologize?
GATES: I think we should just move on from this point.
SCHIEFFER: And should the don’t ask, don’t tell policy — are you satisfied with that or should that policy be reviewed?
GATES: Look, I’ve got a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan, challenges in Iran and North Korea and elsewhere, global war on terror, three budget bills totaling $715 billion. I think I’ve got quite a lot on my plate.