Gay general confronts military ban at Republican debate

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Last night the candidates for the Republican party nomination for President of the United States participated in a CNN-YouTube debate, hosted by Anderson Cooper.

But the silver-haired presenter was not the only gay to ask a question – an out retired brigadier general called Keith Kerr wanted to know: “Why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.”

Since 1994 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people are barred from military service in the US under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

An estimated 12,000 personnel have been dismissed because of their sexuality.

Republicans immediately seized on the information that Mr Kerr is a member of the Hillary Clinton campaign gay rights steering committee to accuse the Democrats of “planting” him.

CNN this morning reported that Kerr has not donated to Senator Clinton’s campaign and that no-one from her team put him up to asking the question.

“I wanted to focus attention on the damage that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” does to our military readiness,” he told CNN’s American Morninghost John King.

He said he is supporting several Republican candidates in various races and has contributed to their campaigns. He confirmed he is a registered independent.

As to the responses, Congressman Duncan Hunter and former Governor Mike Huckabee said that openly gay personnel would hurt cohesion in the Armed Forces.

Mitt Romney attempted to distance himself from his former pro-gay stance when Governor of Massachusetts, saying that fifteen years ago he did not think “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could work.

“You know what? It’s been there now for 15 years and it seems to have worked.”

Senator John McCain claimed that senior military figures tell him that the policy is working and he therefore thinks it should be continued.

The first primaries in the nomination process are just over a month away and last night the eight candidates answered questions on immigration, gun control, the Iraq war, the death penalty, trade and abortion.

The eventual candidate for the White House will be announced at the 2008 Republican convention at the start of September next year.

The Presidential election will be held on 4th November 2008.

President Bush is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, so the new President, whoever he or she is, will not take the oath of office until January 21st 2009.

To watch the Republican candidates debate click here.