Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee held hearing on the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the first such session in 17 years. During the hearing, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen made the powerful announcement that he personally it is time to allow gay men and women to serve openly:
MULLEN: Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.
As early as May 2008, Mullen told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy that the military was ready to accept gay servicemembers if Congress repeals DADT. Last month, Gen. John Shalikashvili, who implemented DADT while serving as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman under President Clinton, said that it is time to repeal the policy.
MULLEN: Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals, and ours as an institution.
I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
But I do not know this for a fact, nor do I know for a fact how we would best make such a major policy change in a time of two wars. That there will be some disruption in the force, I cannot deny. [...]
Sen. Sessions, I think it is approximately correct, but it does, again, go to a fundamental principle with me, which is, everybody counts. And part of the struggle back to the institutional integrity aspect of this —
SESSIONS: I know, I’m privy to your views —
MULLEN: — and putting individuals in a position that every single day, they wonder whether today is going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard just is inconsistent with us as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Sen. McCain spoke to that in his statement. Everybody in the military has. And we understand that. So it is a number of things which cumulatively, for me personally, get me to this position.
After the hearing, Mullen took his message to the Joint Chiefs Twitter account: “Stand by what I said: “Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity.”
,John Aravosis at AMERICAblog points out that in 2006, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “[T]he day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.” Nevertheless, despite Mullen’s announcement, McCain continued to object to repeal in today’s hearing. On the Wonk Room, Igor Volsky points out that McCain chastised Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates for formulating an opinion on DADT before consulting him.