For quite some time, U.S. troops have supported repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. A December 2006 poll of servicemembers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan found 73 percent of those polled were “comfortable with lesbians and gays.” A 2004 poll found that a majority of junior enlisted servicemembers believed gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, up from 16 percent in 1992.
The military’s leadership is finally catching up to its troops. On Sunday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy that the military was ready to accept gay servicemembers if Congress repeals DADT:
With a national election looming, a cadet asked about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and what would happen if someone took office who wants to change it. “It’s a law, and we follow it,” Mullen said. Should the law change, the military will carry that out too, he said.
“We are a military that is under the control of our civilian elected leaders,” he said. “It has served us well since we’ve been founded. That is a special characteristic of our country and I would never do anything to jeopardize that.”
Mullen’s statement is a refreshing change from the military leadership’s traditional approach under the Bush administration. In March 2007, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace publicly stated that homosexuality is “immoral.” He said that he supported DADT because “we should not condone immoral acts.” At the time, Defense Secretary Robert Gates refused to condemn Pace’s remarks, calling the general “one of the finest people I’ve ever worked with.”
Even public discussion of DADT has been considered taboo. Last year, Pentagon official David Chu claimed that a “national debate” on allowing gays into the military would bring “divisiveness and turbulence across our country” and “compound the burden of the war.” Servicemembers who have spoken out in favor of repealing the ban have been punished.
Unfortunately, the reversal of DADT likely won’t happen under a McCain presidency. In the past, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has said repealing the ban would “elevate the interests of a minority of homosexual servicemembers above those of their units” and put the “national security of the United States” at “grave risk.”
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has more on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would lift the ban on openly gay servicemembers and currently has the bipartisan support of 142 lawmakers.